Friday, April 29, 2005

I am doing better by doing worse.

I don’t know why, but I am feeling a bit of sadness coming on. The source is unknown. Passover has thrown everything out of order – my diet, my exercise, my sleeping patterns – everything is back to the way it was before I started having my emotional ups and downs. I actually think that I do better when I am off balance because the overtired feeling or the caffeine kick keeps me from stopping to realize what is going on. Maybe sleep deprivation is my drug, and staying slightly out of focus is my way of keeping my sanity. Sometimes being too tired to care allows me to not think about what I need to do and to just do it.

I technically am in study mode, although I would call this more of a “sitting on the beach by a park bench looking at the blue sky” mode. Of course I am getting some work done, and the four hours later on in the library today was productive too. Today I mastered the topics of incorporation of the Bill of Rights, bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and state action. I began working on procedural due process and I believe the remainder will be a piece of cake. From the amount of work I did in school during the semester, I am finding the review quite relaxing.

Feeling sad is no fun, and for me, perhaps feeling out of control is a bit more relaxing because when I am kicked into overdrive as I am now lacking sleep from crashing at four o’clock in the morning last night and falling asleep pretty late the other nights this week, my thoughts are more numbed and I have a better sense of focus than when I am fully rested. When I sleep enough, it seems like my head is clear enough to get depressed. This can't be a good thing. I wonder whether I should go back to my three hours per night routine. At least then I functioned more like I believe I should.

This evening I snuck away from life and I saw Sin City in the movie theater. It was strange being in an empty theater. There was a character that I related to in a deep level. In fact, when I first saw him, I really thought "he looks exactly how I feel"; as unattractive as he is, he looked very much how I visually see myself. Marv was his name. What I found so appealing was his die hard determination and his willingness to throw everything to the wind for a purpose, but in a foolish way -- that was part of his appeal. I was also very in tune with his honesty about himself and towards others. Because of his medical condition, at times he doubted whether he was imagining things, and he took this part of himself lightly. It is something he lived with. We should all have this characteristic about our flaws. Oh, and his presence was very impressive; that's his picture below. The movie overall was captivating. All movies should be as deep and as smart as this one was.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Going Back to Square One to Find Purpose

I’ve come to terms with my moodiness and bad feelings, and whatever I was going through a few weeks ago seems to have gone away as would have a bad cold. Let’s hope I can keep my immunity up so that this doesn’t return.

Someone said something to me yesterday that made me reconsider some of my thoughts on accomplishments and goal setting. I was wondering what the value was in being a Napoleon, a Nietzsche, a Marx (Groucho or Karl), or any other person who has changed the world. I wondered why anyone would want to make such an impact when the result is that they end up alone, with some disease (Nietzsche died alone of syphilis), only to be remembered in the history books and taught in academia.

The difference between me and them (Groucho excluded) was that Napoleon and the others had a need to make a certain specific change, and they devoted their life to implementing that change. Their desires were political. Thank G-d, today we live in a world where in many civilized parts of the globe, this kind of devotion for political change is not needed. We have our rights and our freedoms, and other than avoiding a speeding ticket from an overaggressive officer, we generally don’t need to deal with oppression. I say this with the exception of individuals such as those who trigger such catastrophic events such as the Holocaust or implement a policy of genocide. This is something we must always keep an eye out for because situations like that sneak up on a society when the individual citizens are metaphorically asleep. But other than that and looking out for the stray terrorist, the world seems pretty calm. At least nothing is happening on my block. For this reason, there is not such a need as there once was for people to give their lives in mesirus nefesh (martyrdom) to achieve such a goal.

The next thing that a friend of mine pointed out to me was that my thoughts on not accomplishing anything of value are completely misguided for the following reasons. Firstly, one thing I have always had was a curiosity to unlock the secrets in life. I was always sorting through the junk and looking for the “gem” or the “needle in the haystack” so that I can enhance my life and those around me. I have been voracious in digesting volumes of knowledge with the intent to find the mechanism that makes the universe tick. The obstacle I encountered was the answer. I believe I have found the answers in the Tanaic and Amoraic teachings and the written and oral Torah. Further, I believe these answers not only hold the secrets to life, but that through the study of chassidus, I can unlock these secrets and bring them down (or me up) to a level where those secrets can have an affect on my life and the lives I come into contact with.

The obstacle in finding this answer is that this is not a two-liner secret philosophy that one can just immediately apply to one’s life. Rather, it is a mountain of texts and commentaries which will require a lifetime of learning so that one can even begin to grasp a piece of the answer. How crazy must I have been to think that the answer to finding the secret of life would be in a small book? So what I did almost five years ago, in line with my goal of finding the secret to life, was that I embarked on a journey of discovery into the religious world where I have been given an opportunity to learn the answer to my big question. Not only that, I have been given an opportunity to live the answer by taking on and incorporating the teachings into my own life.

Keep in mind that I am not touting the benefits of being religious. Nor am I saying that I have found the only answer and that other religions are missing. Nor am I encouraging anyone else to become religious because it is flat-out not an easy thing to do as most of you who have been reading the blog since the beginning have learned. This is probably the most difficult undertaking I have ever done, and as of today I have remembered why I started doing it. I have been in search of the answer to the secret of life, and now I will likely devote the rest of my life learning, understanding, and living this answer. I am a treasure seeker, and unlike those seekers of the past who were forced to give up their lives in order to keep the whereabouts of the treasure a secret, I have been given the gift of being allowed to continue living despite my stumbling upon the map. However, in return, if I am to ever really learn the answer or even get a taste of it, I must willingly devote my life, which I have taken the first few steps to do.

The last point from yesterday’s conversation was that I was afraid that everything I do seems to be for nothing. Everyone has done what I have done – there is no accomplishment that I have achieved that someone else has not yet achieved. I have found no secret that millions do not already know. I have taken no steps that have not already been taken by countless others. Further, the merit of my actions and my decisions which have such an affect on the world are not of my creation. I didn’t invent the idea of wearing a beard and donning Chassidic garb. Nor is becoming an attorney something that has not been done before. Yet these actions are personal to me, and while the path of being religious and pursuing law has been the experience of many people in the past, they comprise my unique experience, completely based on my thoughts, my goals, and my decisions – all with the help of fate.

Excluding the external factors both spiritual and tangible, everything that has happened in my life came from me making a decision, creating a plan of action, and executing that plan. Look at where I have come to, what I have become, and where I am headed! These are all a result of my decisions, for which only I can take credit. There are those that have had the same or even greater opportunities than I did, and they ended up using those opportunities to commit crimes, to hurt people, to do drugs, or even to kill themselves. Granted there are also those who have had fewer opportunities than I have that have taken hold of those experiences and accomplished more than I ever can or ever will. However, the measuring stick is not according to other people’s lives, but rather to one’s own life in comparison to one’s own aspirations.

Someone told me that if I want to feel proud of my life, I should do what would make me feel proud. If I want to feel accomplished in life, I should take the steps to accomplish those things that would make me feel accomplished. All of these thoughts have given me new hope in reframing how I see my world, and I hope I can keep hold of these thoughts and incorporate them into my being so that I can live them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Going to See David Copperfield Tonight !

I just spent $69 for tickets to see my favorite magician, David Copperfield. I am in New York for the holidays and he will be presenting here before he goes back to Washington DC and then to Las Vegas. I know he writes that he is an illusionist, but to me his illusions have always been so real that one time when I was a kid, I saw him fly -- I had dreams afterwards that I could too. In my waking state for weeks, I would sit there on the porch of my grandmother's apartment and try to take off like he did. Never worked. No problem; I knew I would get it one day as soon as I got out of my own way.

Dog Dream

I was in my family’s house, and the house was old. Our co-owner of the house had moved out and was trying to oust my family from our home. I walked into their empty side of the house and noticed that everything was new, shiny, and high-tech. When I peeked through the doors separating our side of the house from theirs, the door was separated enough to show our aged yellow carpet with old, dirty walls and wooden d├ęcor. I took notice of this difference and wondered why my side of the family didn’t take care of our side of the house.

Upon returning to our side, I looked around the house and everything seemed relatively clean – old, but clean. Then the dream advanced hours into the future, and water from one of the rooms to the left of the hallway was overflowing into the hallway. When I went to shut off the water, I noticed that there was a giant dead attack dog floating in the water, all bloodied. I couldn’t help to notice that 1) the teeth were sharp as razors, 2) it was a very big dog, and 3) someone put it there. Perhaps it was a message to get out.

The next thing I knew was that there were dead dogs in every room. When we analyzed the bone of one of the dogs, we noticed that there was a black pill inside. When we opened up the pill, we found a tar-like substance which I concluded was a potent poison which our co-owner neighbor had planted to kill us. It was obvious to me that this was his plan, and this was a good plan because with us dead, there was nobody to oppose him when he took control and ownership over the home. It surprised me that just as our neighbor had placed the poison pill in one dog, the heads of the other dogs contained explosive devices. I wanted to call the police and file a report, but how could I prove that exploding dog heads were someone’s plan to kill us?

The dream advanced a few hours and I was now a member of the police force fighting off dangerous attack dogs which were in our side of the home. I was given a shotgun and a rifle with large round bullets and we were having target practice on a fake rotating doll house. The holes my gun made were bigger than that of the other officers that were shooting at the house. As I shot more bullets than were in my rifle, the other officers were surprised at the accuracy of my aim. My partner and I loaded up with miniature ammunition and we prepared ourselves with bulletproof vests ready for the next attack. As I woke up, I remember thinking that it felt good having such a good friend as my partner was.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I have absolutely no clue where I am holding...

When I read my blog entries, I cannot help to notice that I am screaming out for help. Yet, it is during times like now that I cannot figure out if there is really nothing wrong. Am I really NOT depressed? Am I just lazy and is it that I am taking myself too seriously?

When I compare myself to my peers, it seems to me that I am just as functional as they are. We all work hard and try to get a sufficient amount of work done, we all have a difficult time focusing and keeping our spirits up due to the volumes of material we must master, and we all have things going on in our personal life that we feel that we neglect because our personal lives are set aside due to our commitment to three years of law school.

People that know me believe me to be a generally healthy and cheerful individual. I am well balanced, and I manage my stress well. I am very dedicated to my morals, and at the same time, I am vulnerable to faults and failings.

The main issue that comes to my mind is that I am unable to live up to the high standards that I have set for myself to make it through law school and I am simply experiencing performance anxiety. For anyone with a commitment to anything other than their career, law school is anything but an easy experience. In fact, it might be one of the largest burdens I have ever placed on myself. Further, to reap the benefits of my struggles, I sometimes have serious worries that I will need to live the lifestyle of a high-paced Wall Street lawyer which would countermand any and all of my familial and religious values.

I read today in Kuntres Uma’ayon that a person is happiest when they strive to become better than they were made to be. Further, a person is only truly free when he is able to act in accordance with who he is. Taking this slightly out of context, today I was thinking that I was not meant to be lawyer who is stuck in an office counting billable hours. Rather, I was born to educate the world and to help people to evolve to the next level. The problem is 1) I am shy, 2) I have no message to teach, and 3) I don’t know what this evolution is, nor do I know how to move people closer to it. This saddens me because I wonder “how does one become a famous speaker when he has nothing of value to say?”

Then I look at my Rabbi and other families who measure their life not from year to year, but from minute to minute, and I realize that my goals are focused on the macro rather than the micro and that I might have missed the point in life. Instead of thinking that I only have another seventy Pesachs (a.k.a. years) to live, and instead of stressing that during these few years I may not be able to successfully find a wife, build a family with chassidishe children, have a blossoming career, and make an impact on the world (perhaps a seminal male desire, although there are females too who want to leave their mark), I look at my Rabbi and I realize that I could have it all wrong.

My Rabbi’s life is dedicated to helping other people to reach out and to connect with their creator. B”H (Baruch Hashem [Thank G-d]) he has several wonderful children, who have become that way because he and his wife have put their life energy into making them into the chassidishe children they have become. His life energy is spent doing cute things like changing diapers, cleaning milk-spit, learning Torah, building his shul (synagogue), and being a good father and a wonderful husband. He could spend the next eighty years doing just this and at the end of his life, I am sure that he would be very satisfied with what he has accomplished, knowing that every moment of his life has been dedicated to living the right way.

Me on the other hand -- I feel like I have no message. I have no vessel to carry out that message. I have no wife, I have no job, I have no family, and I have no money. I also have nothing to teach; and nothing to give to other people. I feel that I have no value, and even the wealth of information that I have acquired is not mine, but rather, it belongs to the people who have imparted the knowledge to me through their books and their instruction. Why would I want to be a parrot repeating their good and clear message? I hate being useless. But so far, this is all I am – a combination of many other people.

I realized a few days ago, and I probably wrote a blog on the fact that my character is made up of so many movie characters and people in my life that I have emulated. Yet if you asked me who “I” was, I wouldn’t know how to answer you. Last Erev-Shabbos (Friday night), I entered the Mikveh (ritual bath) changing area and a tiny child whose father was dunking asked me in a very cute voice “and who are you?” I answered in a despondent tone “I don’t know,” and the child shrugged his shoulders, said “me neither” and walked away.

Despite the cuteness of this event, the answer I gave rings true and is what probably gives me my grief. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I am going to do with my law degree, and I don’t know who I am going to be given for a wife. I also don’t know where I am going to live, and I don’t know whether I will be happy, wealthy, or childless and poor. I have a hard time seeing into my future because I don’t see a true path set out – I only see the path which is a resultant of the conglomerations of decisions that I have defaulted into making through fate or otherwise, and I don’t trust this path as being my true path. Not knowing who I am or and not knowing where I am going is probably the answer to why I have been so sad in these blogs. I wish one day soon to know the answer.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Some Resolution Regarding Pesach and Mom

As a resolution to the whole Pesach ordeal with my mother's husband, after my mom told me that I was no longer invited over for Shabbosim if I did not attend the seder, I told her to tell him to shove it... well, you can figure it out. (I said it nicely though, and I conveyed the message to my mom that I understood that she was in the middle and that my anger was not directed at her, but towards her husband.)

The end result was that after looking at the phone with her number on it for ten minutes before pressing "send", I called her on Friday to make peace and to explain to her that I really loved her and that I was sorry she had to deal with his issues. When she picked up, I found out that she had gone to Florida with him. While I was calmed that this rendered the issue moot, I was surprised that they left my brother home alone without a place to go for either seder. If they are so intent on keeping the family together and having a Jewish experience so that my brother can be brought closer to Judaism, how could they leave him home without a place to go for Passover? This only serves to prove to me that their intentions in causing all these problems were not for the benefit of the family, as they so eloquently communicated to me, but rather, to satisfy the temptations of their own sick egos.

The sad thing now is that even though I am backdating this blog to Friday, I am actually writing this entry on Tuesday, April 26th. Although I am not trying not to be belligerent about this whole thing, I am actually hurt that my mom would actually convey such a threat to me. I feel that both she and her husband owe me an apology even though I would never even think of asking her for one. What mother would threaten her son that he is no longer invited to her house if he doesn't give in to her husband's forceful demands that he attend or be banished from his home?

Anyway, I am excited that tonight (Tuesday night) I will be seeing David Copperfield, but I am sad that I will be seeing it alone. I couldn't even bring myself to call my mother or anyone else to come see it with me. I didn't want the rejection, not even from my friends tonight -- I couldn't take it. I got an e-mail tonight from my friend who bailed on me that night that I was throwing a birthday party for my friend who also was a no-show. He announced in his e-mail that "dinner at my dad's tonight" as if after all of his disinterest in our friendship, that I would jump at his beck and call to go see him. I am tired of being the good friend and the good son. Someone else be the fool for a change.

Day Six - Bedikas Chometz

Day Six. Get me the hell out of this room! I am starting to feel a lot of stress because I haven't opened up a book for school in over a week. Assignments have passed me by and days are flying. I missed so many classes last week! Last night I didn't want to go to bed before doing bedika (searching for chametz [bread]). It seems that at one point during the night I just dropped everything and did it because I felt that if I didn't do it right then and there, more hours would have passed and I would have missed the time for doing the bedika.

The amusing thing is that all night, I was so tired that I could have passed out standing.

I still don't understand HOW it takes me hours to get out of my house. You would think someone can just get up and go, but I have found this next to impossible. I must prepare extensively for whatever I do. If it is Friday, before I leave I need to have my clothes prepared for the weekend, I need my books packed so I can learn, I must shower, I must look presentable, and I must eat. I look around the room and see if there is anything I could possibly need and if so, in the bag it goes. Plus, I have wanted with all my heart to go to the gym and get some exercise, and if not the gym, I have wanted to do some yoga. But I don't like the feeling of the furry carpet against my chest because I feel that it is dirty -- plus, it sheds and anything I am wearing ends up being the color of the carpet.

To add to that, I have this pain on the top of my skull. It could be a headache, but it is so high up, four inches above my forehead. My eyelids hurt from my habitual squinting, and I am sweaty and hot, even with the windows open. Additionally, my eyes are seeing the vapor trails of everything that I look at. If you want to see exactly what I see with my eyes open, close your eyes and look at the patterns you see. This is what I see with my eyes open. I once thought I was seeing auras, but now I don't know what I am looking at. I wish I could figure out how I can use this distortion. To play on words, this is my mind's eye. It sees whatever I think of. This is why I am still jumpy in the dark. When it is dark outside, I sometimes mistake the shadow vapor trails I see as being real, and then I jump thinking that someone is next to me or behind me. This is because I am also very sensitized to high frequency sounds and the slightest sound catches my attention.

The funny part is that as soon as I go outside, all this depression seems to subside. I suddenly become Mr. Productive, doing hundreds of tasks and chores, and I get my energy back and in a short period of time, I make up for all the time I lost while I was in a daze. I go from being Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll, and nobody catches on. I am organized like a calculator and nobody knows of the emotional mess that laughs at me and waits to capture me as soon as I get home again.

So as strange as everything I just said sounds, let's summarize. I am feeling calm and content, but depressed because I cannot get myself to move and do the things I absolutely need to do. It's like someone presses the pause button or the slow motion button and life continues at its regular speed. I have bursts of productivity. I am exhausted. I don't eat properly. I don't sleep properly. I need to force myself every morning to take my vitamins, to pray, and to do everything I need to do if I can overcome my inability to move. My laziness seems to be insurmountable, but my energy, as low as it usually is when I am in these moods is not absent - I can conjure up the energy and move if I wanted to. I just have no desire. I have a headache that comes and goes. I am highly sensitive to sounds from electronic and magnetic devices. I hear the sound of the electricity powering something as simple as a clock. Not only do I hear it, I can sense its movement and the source of the high frequency.

Lastly in summary, I see the shadows and patterns with my eyes open that one would normally see with their eyes closed. I am very smart when my brain is switched on, and I am very talented in many areas. Yet I suffer from this deep separation from reality as if I am a passenger in a car as opposed to being the car itself driving down Life Road. When I was younger, I went to a psychic once who commented that he never saw someone like me who hovers outside of his body for most of the day and who doesn't like being inside the body. That is funny to me because I can shift my reference of who I am to or near any object and can metaphorically step into that object and feel what it feels as if I become it. Whatever. Who wants to be a cell phone or a tie on my desk anyway. Maybe this is why I love movies so much.

Anyway, bedika (the search for chametz) went well. I did it like a Chossid. However, this morning when I went to burn my chametz, the plastic pan I used to hold the paper bag melted, and I almost set fire to my second-floor deck. Have a happy and kosher Passover!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Grateful Twin Flames

I just wanted to take an accounting of what is going on in my thought processes so that I can properly set goals and navigate through the interesting times that are ahead.
This has certainly been a down time. I feel that the flames of life heated my surroundings and made everything around me harden and age from the fire that threatened to burn me if I wasn't careful. This fire is my surroundings. Lately, everything has been an analysis for me. Someone would have been proud. Actually, a few people from my past would have been proud. There is one person in particular that in my eyes I was very close with before I became religious. Toby Jazzboy. His name was actually Yossi. I remember the first time I saw him - he had an instant suspicion of me. He was the clown, and so was I. We were two cowboys in a saloon, and from the look he gave me, there was only room for one of us in town.

Later on as we became friends, I learned more from him than he will ever know. I learned from him honesty of character. To some it was a flaw of his that he wore his heart on his sleeve, and so any thoughts he had were immediately visible to the world. But he was a musician and an artist, and he had an appreciation that there was a G-d out there, more like in here, so much so that as I was becoming religious, he would freak on me because I would start discussing my adapted understanding of Kabalistic concepts that often freaked him out. One time I cried because it scared me that it scared him. I was simply looking for truth and to understand the world and the spiritual world, and he cut my words off as if they were tentacles of evil. Nevertheless, he was pure and he was as true a person as I have ever known with the kind of flaws one could only love.

One thing I remember about him was that although he was an aspiring musician, he took a job at a pizza store to make money so that he can contribute to the rent. I remember thinking that I would never work for minimum wage because that was beneath me, but I admired him for his willingness to do it.

As for his relationship to G-d, he had such honesty to him that it made an impression on me. He once said "I think I'm not going to be religious anymore". To anyone that sounds horrifying, but to me I understood it to be a sounding board where he was expressing his frustrations that he could not play his music on the Sabbath, and if he wasn't religious, he could have.

TobyJazzboy was one of the few people I lost as a friend when I became religious. I am sure it wasn't him that made the decision not to write back to my many e-mails, but he probably went along with what those around him asked him to do -- namely, to no longer have contact with me. But I still have memories of our friendship, even though it was formed through my knowing his suitemate. I looked upon him as a mashpia of sorts, and for a while, he was my guide. I respected him and looked up to him.

I sit here shifting my thought to the person I have become. If there is one thing that I could give myself credit for, it is for being authentic. I credit Yossi among many others for this trait. I have become a warm blooded, friendly, giving person. While the saying "she makes coffee nervous" is a favorite line of mine which I secretly attribute to myself, another aspect which I give myself credit is the inner workings of my mind. While I wouldn't argue that lately it has been in serious need of a tune-up since its engines have been misfiring causing me weird bouts of depression and moodiness, the other dimensions of it leave me awestricken. I am thankful for what G-d has given me, and I am thankful for my flaws because it is through them that I learn to practice my old favorite slogan "know thyself", and it is the source of my greatest growth. I can only anticipate my life, rubbing my palms together, excited about what my life will be like when I actually get a hold of it. It is a matter of time, discipline, and practice. If I were perfect, life would be boring.

Fifth Day and Counting

Since most of you bloggers have blogs of your own, I am sure that it is not uncommon to sometimes feel a little bit selfish when all of the conversations are about you. I know I feel it now, and I really want to forget about myself for a little while because whatever funk I am going through, I am getting exhausted trying to fix it. I’d rather hear about you and your thoughts and exciting moments, however I suppose I do when I surf your sites and read the personal stories you have to tell. Reading your stories has given me a perspective on mine, namely that I don’t live in a vacuum and there are others who are going through the same thing.

You think you have me figured out, don’t you? I wish you did. I wish that we can blame all my articles on stress and loneliness and go home feeling good that we solved the problem. But my life scenario is not new. I am entering my third year of law school; it has been many years since I have become religious and since I went to Yeshiva (rabbinical school). Yes, I am in my late twenties now. What I am saying is that it would be too simple to blame all my bubbling feelings on an impending impatience that has come over me, as if my clock’s ticking suddenly became audible to my ears.

Behind these feelings is a mechanism, a biomechanical synergism of thought commingled with emotion and spiritual energy. Whatever it is, it is sapping my physical energy. I have grown weak from my mental slowdown, and part of me liked it better when I thought I was out of control on three hours of sleep per night. Now my clock is broken and everything is ticking out of tune.

I am on my fifth counted day of deep depression and this is a first for me. I shouldn’t be this tired. I shouldn’t be this stressed. The truth is that I can barely move, and my energy level has been hovering around a 10 out of 100 for days now. I wouldn’t say the energy is not there, as I have accessed it and for hours at a time on demand. I have stepped out of my house and I have regained full energy and my mood has stabilized. But I am not hungry, I am not thirsty, I am not in the mood to do anything except perhaps sleep. Forgive me for thinking mechanically about a mental process; I am just trying to track my thoughts and feelings as a scientist would track his lab rat. Anyway, you’d think one day this would be over and the depression will lift, right? I’m sure of it. Just give it time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shalom Bayis Explosion Waiting To Happen at Mom's House.

Sorry to keep firing these blogs at you, I hope the content has maintained its intense nature. [To my mom’s husband: If you ever stumble onto this site or onto this post, please don’t take it personally. I am trying to figure out what to do because you have put my mom in a very sensitive position and I am trying to keep the shalom bayis (peace of home) between you guys. What I write here as unfortunate as it is, is the truth. This is how I feel. This does not reflect on how I feel about you, or the admiration I have for your perseverance and your character. You have always disagreed with my religious views, and this is just a reflection of our disagreement. Please forgive me if I have hurt your feelings.]

I would like some clarification on the best way to handle a situation that has come up. As you know, my mom’s husband is allegedly religious. Let’s pretend his food is kosher, and let’s pretend that his home will be kosher for Pesach. He is what people call a misnaged; he picks the parts of religion that he agrees with, and discards the rest as nonsense. He loves articles in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune by secular authors who write these dry, heartless articles about Judaism. He hates Lubavichers and Chabad with every fiber of his being, and whenever he has something good to say, there is always a snide comment right around the corner. He doesn’t fail to repeatedly object to me being Lubavich as if I have been swept into some cult that controls my every thought. To him Lubavich is the big franchise.

The issue is this. I am almost thirty years old. I have never gone to his house for a high holiday except for Sukkos, and I don’t plan on adding to my holiday visits. I don’t enjoy going there – whenever I visit, I feel like a captive. I am forced to talk about the secular topics he wants to discuss. Most of the time I am plainly bored out of my mind by the un-intellectual, un-jewish conversations. There was a time that I would inject yiddishkeit into the experience, but I found that this was counterproductive because of the cynicism I received from him towards religion as a response. There was also a time where I would work with him in his goal to make my brother religious, but at every step he countered me in my being religious and he caused more harm than good because he taught my brother that one does not have to follow the mitzvahs (commandments) to be a religious Jew. With every fiber of my being, I disagree with him on this point. For this reason, I no longer participate in his productions. This is as much as I can say without treading all over the prohibition against Loshon Hara (evil tongue).

If you asked me whether I have any question whether I want to go or not, the answer is clearly no. There is no doubt that I would rather be on the other side of the world than to be in his home for Passover, or any other holiday. The only problem is that my mother is involved, and I love her dearly. From the day that they decided not to go away for Passover (then it was okay that I not attend their seders), my mom’s husband has been giving her grief and causing shalom bayis problems. Last year, he did not speak to her for over a week because he was angry that I didn’t participate in one of his holiday events.

The one problem is that he has made the ultimatum that if I do not come to his seder and fulfill my family obligation, he will not to allow me to come to his house ever again and he will not come to my house when I am married and when I have a family. While this doesn’t cause me much grief, it bothers me because my mom who I believe will want more than anything to spend time as a grandmother and as a part of my family will be forbidden by her husband to see me or associate with my family. This will cause more problems for her than I can imagine, and while I would like to say that I would be the cause, I am not – but I could prevent this from happening by attending his seder. My logic however tells me that he is fishing for reasons to cause trouble and if it is not this that sets him aflame, it will be something else down the line. He has always been looking for a fight.

So this is my dilemma. My current answer is unemotionally not to attend. I simply already have plans, and I am not interested in inconveniencing everybody because he has his need to pull together a family (not even his family) at gunpoint. The two words I can describe him is that he is an emotional terrorist and he is a love vampire. Other than the fact that he is a loving man who has made my mother very happy and loved, when it comes to religion, this is how I see him. Any advice you have is welcome. I wish you all a peaceful, kosher, and freiliche (happy) Pesach (Passover).

Psychoanalysis on Eeyore's Dilemma

What is wrong with me?!? Last night I came home from the law firm drained of energy, and so I thought it would be exciting to get a full night of sleep. I came home, had a cup of soy milk, and at 9:30pm I was in my green pajamas, in bed with a book, and within a few minutes, I was falling peacefully asleep.

I was so convinced that eight hours later (5:30am), my body would wake up full of energy. I even set my alarm clocks for 5:30am. Wrong. 7:49am, my eyes opened, and I was groggy with a headache (or shall I say it felt more like a hangover). I didn't even hear any of the alarm clocks, although I vaguely remember snoozing them every few minutes -- but they didn't interrupt my deep sleep. I suppose I shut them off while I was still asleep, and then I went back to my bed and continued whatever dream I was in.

Now I am awake, and I am totally confused. How could I have not woken up after 8 hours? I am so used to sleeping on 3 - 5 hours. 7 hours has been my treat to myself these past two weeks in an attempt to regain a sense of normal functioning because I was starting to get mood swings, going from full energy and happiness to anger or severe lack of energy or desire to do anything, back to full energy a few days later. I noticed this, and I realized this wasn't normal. I was writing about these weird experiences around the time when I first started the blog. I spoke with my mashpia (spiritual guide/rabbi) and others, we decided that getting more than 3 hours of sleep would make the mood swings go away, and it has.

Since then I've been sleeping normally, and occasionally my rabbi calls me up to make sure I am sleeping well and for an adequate number of hours. But as you can tell from the previous posts:

I am feeling a contradiction in emotions that has not yet sorted itself out. If you asked me how I felt, I would tell you that overall, I am cheerful and I am relatively happy, except for the stresses I am under from law school, from being lonely, and from not being able to manage my energy and my time to do the daily or weekly tasks I need to do. But otherwise, I am excited for the direction things are moving in life. According to my goal list, I am achieving my goals and I am right on schedule. These past few weeks and with the help of the blog, I have been given a chance to re-evaluate my goals, my character, and my activities which is a valuable gift because it allows me to re-align myself with the values I set out to live by. The sleep has given me the clarity to undertake these exercises.

Yet along with the sleep has come a not so good feeling of general fuzziness where I am having a difficult time focusing. These feelings can be described as a combination of oversleeping and of having a hangover from too much alcohol the night before. Mind you, I don't drink alcohol and I don't do drugs. So there should be no reason for this; things in life objectively seem to be going pretty well. Yet I am saddened and drained of my life force that I would get on three hours of sleep and a large cup of coffee. From this description, perhaps I am feeling what it feels to be normal without my high-energy over-tired caffeinated lifestyle that I have become so accustomed to. But I am sad (not crying sad, but heavy eyebrows sad, like Eeyore the donkey from Winnie the Poo) and I don't have an explanation for this other than the single-lonely-law student explanation. But this isn't something new. Why is it getting to me now?

Okay, the donkey bit might get a bit annoying, but the point I wanted to express is that Eeyore was known for being depressed, but look! He has a smile in both pictures! Could it be a remote possibility that despite the smile often has a home on my face, that I have fallen into a depression? My mom has been telling me for years now (well, since around September 11th, 2001) that I've changed and that I've become depressed. She often shows me a picture from earlier that year [at a sheva berachos (post-wedding party) from a friend prior to me becoming religious] and says "See? That is how you were -- that was the look in your eye. I haven't seen that look in such a long time!"

I remember that time -- it was then that I thought I could conquer the world. I was working the mortgage business and making absolutely nothing (compared to what I set my goals to make) and I was working a prospecting business (cult promoting lawlessness) that focused my attention on selling a product in a pyramid scheme that I later found out to be illegal and I was the chump at the bottom who lost all my money in the process. But that is not what got me down. Perhaps it was the fact that I felt that I lost all my friends for the moral decisions I made (more like a moral shakedown), and even the friends that have stuck with me (come along for the ride) until today have become somewhat estranged from me because my decisions took me away from our activities that made our friendship so strong. Becoming religious wasn't the cause of all this, it was the after-effect. After all this happened, I turned to G-d and said "if this is the way life is, and if you have a set of rules (a map) that I can use to navigate through life, then I need your help to guide me through whatever is on its way". So I slowly became religious, taking one thing at a time [in rapid succession]. I think my mom is right though -- I am still not the person I used to be, and as wonderful as being religious is (and I plan to continue it for the rest of my life), it wasn't the elixir [, the silver bullet] I was looking for to pull me out of my depression. Nevertheless, I stumbled onto religion in the process and I am comforted that it is here to stay.

I guess my revelation from this blog entry is that all these issues I have with religion are not necessarily with religion, and perhaps I should stop blaming it for my problems. It was me who had the issue with creation and the hardships of life before I even became religious. My goal has always been to live a moral life, and if that means changing my habits or letting go of past pleasures is the way to do it (accepting the fact the religion is supernatural and the right way to live even if we don't understand the logic of why it wants us to be the way it does), then I suppose I shouldn't have much of a problem with it. After all, most stuff I'll be able to do anyway, just under refined circumstances. In time, that won't be so bad.

So what I am left with right now is a situation where I need to find the spark that was once shining within me. I need to re-discover that look in my eye that I once had. Whoa! Do you know my fingers just wrote the word "love" when I was writing the word "look"? Interesting. Maybe I just have nobody to love and that is causing me my depression. It will be interesting to see if [in time,] that was the answer. But there would be no way to figure that out until I was married, unless I decided to start a relationship with someone and I allowed myself to fall in love. But while you secular people are probably cheering me on at this point, I am stopping this idea immediately because 1) it would not be fair to the person I fell in love with, 2) starting a platonic relationship might end up not platonic (not allowed to touch, remember?), and most of all 3) it would be unfair to my wife, because I should already be preparing for our life together (and I have been for almost three years now). Starting a relationship with another would be cheating on my future wife, unless that person was destined to be my wife. Circular and twisty logic. Confusing.

Nevertheless, I have chosen a path based on religious principles, and as much as I have more desire than anything to break away from that path and do something else (and I think about it all the time), as I said before -- where there is desire, there is temptation which often has ungodly origins. So I must stay on my path and fight the depression as if we were both warriors fighting over mastery for the territory, namely over who will rule my mind. So even this I must fight with joy because the inactivity I have been entertaining for so long will cause depression to win the war and I will lose my footing and will fall off the path that I still believe is the right path. As much as this might be real depression, and as much as I believe the source of it is spiritual but the effects of it are clearly manifested as biological, I am sure many people would love to see me medicate away my depression and say "with this pill I say to thee, 'be gone'." But then again, if there is a disease, which this might just be due to my temporary circumstances and outlook on life, by taking a pill I would be healing the symptoms and not the source of the disease.

Wow, has this entry become interesting! Okay, so the source of my depression, namely the lack of love, loneliness, and stress which has arguably caused bad feelings within me which has arguably invited bad spiritual beings (or has simply given immense strength to my own evil inclination) to cause me strife WILL go away when my circumstances change. Or so I think it will. However, if that is the real cause of my sorrows, then in time it will pass and I can (for the time being) either medicate it away or ride it out. Or, I can fight the factor that is causing me the sadness (namely, my evil inclination or the bad spirits my thoughts may have invoked) through various practices that give my body enough strength for my mental faculties to function well enough to overcome my negative thoughts. That is the plan. This is my mission.

PS - The name of the book I was reading in bed is called Returning to Joy by Joshua Mark, Ph.D. I picked it up in a jewish bookstore, and it is a self-care guide for overcoming depression. Interestingly enough, it takes into consideration the immense stresses religion can put on an formerly secular individual with the belief changes and the new responsibilites one would normally take on upon becoming religious. Further, it supplements and supports its methodologies through Torah and Talmudic sources using Mishlei (Proverbs) and Tehillim (Psalms) to back up its claims. This makes it a perfect match for me. By the way, in the beginning, it gives a good test for depression. The funny thing is at the end of the test, it rates the results from 0-12, 0 being not depressed at all, and 12 being severely depressed. I laughed when I saw that my score was a 23.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

China IP Update

55. Okay, I guess I blew off my classes for the day. I'll make up for it later. Finals are around the corner. Good news - I am feeling much better, at least until the next brain-mushing headache hits me. Today I spent too much time preparing for my program in China for this summer. They wanted new applications filled out, photos, etc. I was accepted into the program last week, and I am really excited to go.

I have always had a sneaking suspicion that I didn't have any interest in living a normal life sitting in a law office all day. That is why I chose to attend the China patent law program. Specialization within an already semi-exclusive niche. My extended family and I have been talking about this for months now. After doing research on demographics and an occasional glance at the New York Times, we came to the conclusion that if one wants to live an interesting life with unimaginable growth potential and opportunities, then it would be highly rewarding for him to focus his practice in China and take part in their markets as international borders are broken down.

The coolest part was that I found that there is a Lubavich community in Beijing which is where my school will be this summer. That means kosher food, Shabbos, mikveh, and holiday services! Real food! (Before this I was planning on living on rice for the month). Not only that, they have a whole school system in place for the youngsters, complete with Montessori teaching methods and Torah learning. Way cool! [Hint to self: that means that I could technically live there with my wife and kids.] It's so exciting when a new door of opportunity swings open. It is nice to know that there are options and that I am not stuck in New York for the rest of my life.

Watch me pull out of this one

[Here is something I hope you never will have to go through. I am writing this down to note the time I am feeling this way. To those of you who know who I am, don't hold this against me.]

24. It’s almost 9am, and the alarm clock has been chirping away for around 20 minutes now. This was my late alarm that signals to me that I have missed all my other alarms and that the one by my bed is no longer snoozing. I have been awake for almost 1.5 hours now, but I am not quite in the mood to get going. Okay, I just shut it off because I needed to focus to write this entry. Plus, the chirping was giving me a headache.

As I was saying, I am not quite in the mood to do anything this morning. If it were up to me, while still in my pajamas, I would make a nice hot tea, find a comfortable chair near a window so that I could feel the sunlight against my face, and I would snuggle into that chair with a book for a few hours until I fell asleep.

Working hard is a concept that I am well conversant with. I work at a law firm without pay. In return, I get credits at school and a good entry on my resume with the hopes that one day it will lead to real employment. Yet I hate the light blue color of my walls, and the fact that the room is not a square, but rather, a trapezoid. It also annoys me that when I look outside my office window, I am looking at the reception area, which is still inside the building! What's the deal with that?!? Also, the cases I have been working on don't quite excite me to say the least. Okay, they are flat-out boring.

But on this path to being a well-paid lawyer, there are some decisions I must make. Firstly, I need to decide what kind of work to do. I am looking into Art Law, an interesting field that might hold my interest due to the subject matter and the thought that perhaps I can become a connoisseur and a lover of art in the process. Although I think the "it's mine!" battles would get annoying. I actually don't know what I want to do with law. So far I am defaulting to patent law because 1) I can and I am eligible for the patent bar because of my science and engineering classes, and 2) my career tests say that is where I fit the best. It's a good fit.

But let's get back to right now. My energy level is pretty much at 20 out of 100. I am awake and alert, but I am feeling a bit foggy. My mood is calm and my temperament is quietly content. I feel a slight stress in my chest because despite the advice from everyone last night to the contrary, I am blowing off my morning classes.

I know myself. I know that I will not focus, and I will get caught for not being prepared. Oh darn it. Fine. Never mind. I will go to school. Now I need to shower as fast as possible. The original plan was to skip this two-hour class and to prepare for my afternoon class and for tomorrow so that I can get through the rest of the week. Stop. I made a decision. I am skipping my two hour class in the morning so that I can prepare for the other classes. It's no longer cool to be slapstick about classes. While for the most part of the semester, I have been on the ball. Since Sunday I have entered into a funk again which has pretty much destroyed any desire to do anything. Last night I left school early because I was no longer in the mood to be there, and I headed into the city to get some stuff done for Pesach. While I calculated that trip to take three hours, it took over ten hours before I got back into the car to go home. Sleep happened at 2am.

Okay, here is the description I wanted to note for my diary. Other than the fact that I am about to pull myself out of this because there are pressing things to be done, I am pretty much not in the mood to do anything. For starters, I am experiencing a fog that is like a headache, but feels like something else. Nevertheless, it is still a headache of sorts. I don't want to get up and start my day. I don't want to shower, I don't want to pray, I don't want to get dressed, I don't want to study or to go to school. I don't want to take my vitamins, and I don't want to eat; I'm just not hungry. In fact, I pretty much don't want to do anything except perhaps take a few days off to recharge. I say this with a slight smile and a humored temperament because I feel lucky that I can look at myself sometimes and laugh at my weaknesses. While sometimes I am a powerhouse of energy, today I am simply mush. However, if I don't get up now and prepare, the rest of my day will be a nightmare because then I will have the rest of the week to deal with as someone deals with a hangover.

G-d give me the strength to pull myself out of this rut and to find the support I need in you, in others, and in myself. I can pull out of this, I always have.

Okay, here is my plan. It's 10:15am now. Shower. Get dressed. Pray. Eat. Take vitamins. Read Trusts & Estates. Go to class. Pray. Drive to law firm. Be productive for 3 hours. Come home. Read Trusts & Estates. Read ConLaw. Pray. Go to sleep. -- I literally want to throw up by looking at my day. Ok. I can pull through this. Tomorrow, Wednesday, and then Thursday. Then home free - Pesach and Shabbos. What a treat! I can do it.


With all the things going on, I was talking to a friend a few minutes ago and I was asking him why don't I just break the various religious laws that have been clashing with my secular desires? Why don't I just say "to hell with it" and give in and do what I want? Why all this struggle in the name of religion?

My friend told me "the one thing that you have acquired through your efforts these past few years regarding religion is integrity. You might not like the decisions you made because you might not like the results regarding how they impact your life and how people react to you, but since you believe your choices are true and moral and you have stuck to them in face of the adversity you have faced to the contrary, that gives you integrity." "...I believe you wouldn't give up your integrity because it is too valuable to you."

So is this my reason for not breaking religious law? My own integrity? I asked him "what about my rebellious thoughts? Isn't that hypocritical for a religious person to have?" He answered "We are both behamas (animals); the difference between you and me is that you will think of a thought and not act upon it, while I will act on that thought without thinking about it. In the end, I did the deceptive deed and you did not indulge. That makes you a better person."

I still had the thought.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Reflection before Yud-Aleph Nisan.

I was reading over some of my past blogs and I am not surprised why there so few readers. Have you ever noticed how depressing these blogs are? I would like to explain away these blogs by thinking that I am under immense pressures from every angle when it comes to law school, yiddishkeit, Lubavich mindsets and expectations on the individual, and just plain loneliness from being single and not being able to do anything about it. I would say that on every front, these would be hard core challenges for any person.

I was relieved today to find an underground set of blogs by other Lubavichers and it seems that they have the same questions I do. While they have taken the liberty of making it known who they are, I have intentionally concealed my identity because the last thing I want is for people to make judgments as to who I am based on this blog. You'll notice that the main topics I write about are those issues which I work on to resolve. But during that process of working out, weird things and thoughts and beliefs come out. Like yesterday, I could be construed as a stalker or a dark copy-cat mentality -- the kind you will see on those shows on criminal minds.

All in all, I'm just a regular guy with a semi-secular upbringing. This religious experience has been fluctuating between an experience and a lifestyle, and it is causing me stress because all these regular orthodox people are hammering away at me trying to get me not to be Lubavich. I don't see why they have such a problem with it. Also, the time constraints of law school have distracted me from what I normally would spend my time doing, so there are all these conflicts here. When I have more time, I will be able to further sort everything out. For the few of you who have been reading these blogs, thank you for being there for me.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


I cannot sneak my way back into being the person I once was. My choices have been too vocal; people know too well who I have become. My identity precedes me before I walk into a room and I am announced with trumpets and horns. People see the person I have become before they see the person I still am. Nobody looks at me anymore and sees me for the person I am -- even I have become a stranger to myself trying to become the person I wanted to be.

I put on so many layers of faces that if you would (if one could) take them off, what you would find is the faceless me that is the void behind the masks. My first mask was inspired by a cool kid in high school named Craig Whitney. I saw how people reacted to him and I thought that if I acted like him and combed my hair like him and put my right hand into my jeans pocket like he did then people would like me the way they liked him. I would be cool. Then I added more people to my repertoire, adding more personalities and more mannerisms. I built myself as a person would form a clay man. I collected my personalities as a demon would collect souls.

Who would have known that years later, the giant mask that I molded over the years would crack and I would accidentally get a glimpse of the person behind the mask? Nothing could have prepared me for the crisis that has ensued, as I have recently heard the echoes of emptiness belch a scent from the nothingness that still hides behind my cracked mask. The smell that I face is one of dust and of cobwebs from a hidden self who is trapped within the goal-setting machine I built long ago. Peering into the depths of my self, I don't have a face to look back at me and this lack of a reflection scares me. Now I do, but am, I am not, scratch the walls trying to see the shape of my fingernails by analyzing the imprints I leave. Yet there is no time to do this because my past decisions blow me forward into the uncertain future. I fear I will live someone else’s life with someone else’s dreams and someone else’s values. The crack in my mask is not getting smaller. In fact, it might not be able to be repaired. This means that whatever is underneath must come out.

[By the way, I haven't thought of Craig's name in over ten years. After writing this entry, I looked up his name in Google wondering what he ended up doing or becoming, and I was floored to find this web site on him. Craig Whitney -- Cornell University, BS (Business Management and Marketing) Harvard Law School, JD Candidate (Class of 2001). Research fellow for the IP in Cyberspace Online Series (Spring 1999) 1999 Harvard Journal of Law and Technology Symposium -- Assistant Coordinator Investigator for the Georgetown University Law Center Criminal Justice Clinic... Would you believe me if I told you that I am also finishing law school, just five years after him -- I am becoming a patent attorney dealing specifically with IP in China, but unlike Harvard, I go to a low-ranked law school. Good for him. I am not sad for being where I am, because I worked very very hard to get here. Where I stand today comes from the best of what I can do. While it gives me a slight nudge in my chest when I see others who sat next to me in high school do so much better that I am and be so much smarter than me, I know that there are no regrets. Life was a massive struggle. But I never gave up.]

Passover Blues

It is my belief that there are far fewer people with evil intentions than there are plainly stupid people who can't see past their own selfish points of view.

Imagine a person who after paying over $75 for an unlimited summer pass at Six Flags Great Adventure got upset that the park charged an additional $8.50 each time the unlimited pass-holders wanted to visit the park. So, when he and his friends visited the park, he would insist that his friends carpool to defray the $8 burden because this individual didn't feel that the $8 was morally justified. One time, his friends got stuck in traffic for almost four hours on the way to picking him up, and since he was an hour out of the way (30 minutes each way), they asked him to hop in the car and meet them at Great Adventure because almost half the day was gone by then. In this individual's single-mindedness, he didn't want to pay the extra $8 because he thought it was morally unjustified; when his friends pleaded with him and offered to pay the $8 to save the extra hour in travel time, he wouldn't accept the offer because he was so focused on not letting the park benefit from their unfair business practices. Eventually he got into a car and drove, but not after a fight.

That was me many years ago that pulled that selfish stunt and I was so stuck on the morality of an $8 parking bill that I was ready, willing, and eager to inconvenience my friends so that Great Adventure wouldn't get another few bucks out of us. In other words, I was so blinded by my stupidity that I was willing to hurt those I cared about. What spooks me is that for years I didn't see my own selfishness from that day.

Having this story re-told to me this Thursday has helped me to understand the karmic significance of this event. My friend who was in the car that day had a birthday this past Thursday and, as I usually do for my friends, I threw him a dinner party. I called the restaurant and arranged the whole thing. I confirmed with him two weeks beforehand to make sure he was free that night. I even spoke to him and confirmed the night before -- we were going to meet at 8pm -- I was going to drive into the city and I was going to take him out to a restaurant where his friends would be there waiting for him.

I got a bad feeling earlier that day when his voicemail came on in the morning and he didn't answer his phone. I left a message. I e-mailed him and told him to turn on his phone and to make sure he's available to talk so that we could coordinate his birthday party. No response. The travel time to get to him would be over an hour and a half -- if there was no traffic. Later, it was time for me to leave, and he still wasn't answering his phone. Going against my better judgment, I got in the car and drove to his house in the city; I got there at 8pm as per our confirmed plans. I waited in the car for around twenty minutes before going to the doorman to buzz him and ask what is taking him so long. His roommates told me he wasn't even in the apartment. I waited another thirty minutes. He wasn't there. Perhaps he was delayed on some lab project for his dental program, I thought, or perhaps some emergency came up... I continued waiting for another thirty minutes. I called his cell phone every ten or twenty minutes, but there was still no response. After an hour and a half of standing by his door, I decided to walk back to the car. My phone rang -- "private". I knew it must be him.

When I answered the phone concerned for his well being -- more specifically I was thinking about the lack of well being I would want him to experience if he forgot -- he told me that he knew I would be there, but instead he decided to go over to his girlfriend. Then he proceeded to lie to me that he called me a few times earlier in the day and left messages on my voicemail. [I have one phone number with a very good caller id system -- he did not call.] I played it cool and tried to take my attention off of myself being the fool and of me being the one who just stood by the door for over an hour like a dork while he was off with his girlie. The goal of the night was to show him a good time for his sake, so I felt that any anger I experienced was misplaced because the night was not about me -- it was about him. I dropped off the CD that I made for him with the doorman, and I called up the people who were planning on attending the dinner and I canceled the party because the birthday boy was a no-show. Sure enough, nobody showed up at the restaurant anyway and had he shown up to his own birthday party, it would have ended up being just me, him, and one other person who was going to come later. Everyone else bailed out. What loyal friends we have. I found a local store, picked up some food for dinner and headed back home. I was thinking about how I needed to get some new friends.

I would say that there is no moral to this story. I acted as a friend should act. One thought that comes to my mind is that just as I was blinded years ago by my sense of fiscal justice and I acted selfishly towards my friends to save $8, today my so-called "friend" acted selfishly towards me by not showing up to his own birthday party. His ex-girlfriend whom he went to visit would have even been there had he answered my e-mail. What gets to me is that he stood me up even though I inconvenienced myself for his benefit. This brings me to my thought that people so often act selfishly at the cost of inconveniencing others. Just there was no justification for my actions years ago with the Great Adventure story, there was no justification for my friend not to show up when he knew I and possibly many other people were waiting for him for his benefit.

I would say that with the changes in my life that I have made over the past few years, I have also grown to become a better person. One thing that I acquired in law school was a bullshit-o-meter. I also acquired a sense of justice, fairness, and a sense of right and wrong coupled with the reasoning abilities of a judge. In truth there was no justification for my friend's act, and since this is not the first time he has done something like this, I might decide that this friend might no longer be my friend.

In related matters, today my mom's husband (step-father) cried to me asking me why I won't come to his Passover seder (a ritual commemorating the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt), and that as my mom's son, I have a duty to be there. What is surprising to me is that he finds no qualms requiring me to walk an ungodly distance (not allowed to drive/did it once - never doing it again) on an already over-busy holiday with many tiring time-sensitive commandments to fulfill. Plus, given that his intent was valid, namely to have the family together for the seder, he forgets that he is trying to force together a family that is not his to force. I do not belong to him, nor am I part of his family by anything except for by my mom's subsequent marriage after the divorce. I am almost thirty years old. There is no reason for him to expect me to buy into his claim that I actually have a duty to be there.

I think I can decide where I will be for the holidays. Other than the super-long walk and the inconvenient schedule-shifting on my part and on the part of others who would need to shift their schedules to accomodate me so that I could comply with his otherwise valid desire to have the family together, I simply do not enjoy the environment he creates when it comes to religion. I find it to be dry, lifeless, and flat-out depressing.

I want to point out a clear distinction here. The difference between me wanting to go wherever I will choose to go for the holidays and my mom's husband demanding that I have a duty to be there by him is that my desire does not require anyone to inconvenience themselves because of my decision as to where to attend. However, his desire will turn the whole experience upside down and will require me and others to act in ways that will put an undue burden on the holiday and defeat its purpose.

My father has a similar scenario on this same topic. The background here is that my father does not keep kosher, and there are strict halachot (Jewish laws) regarding what is permitted to eat and what is not permitted to eat on Passover. Further, there are specific ritualistic requirements on what specific foods to eat, when to eat then, and how to eat them; these rules are specific to the point that it tells you what food items you are allowed to have in your house during Passover, and what location each piece of food should occupy on your plate. As you know from previous posts, my dad doesn’t know the rules, and he frankly doesn’t care about them either. My dad is dating a non-Jewish woman and because of him, my little brother has learned that this is permitted and has followed in my father's footsteps.

To make matters worse, my dad has decided that he will have a seder at his house this year, and he expects me and my brother to attend. I told him to forget it, but my brother doesn’t have the heart to tell him no. Not only would it be a sin for my dad to make the Passover seder with non-kosher food, negating the rules and time requirements of what to do and when to do it, but because this year the seder is on the Sabbath (Saturday), if my brother attended, he would need to drive and break the Sabbath to attend. As if having my brother drive on the Sabbath wasn’t damaging enough, I believe that no good can come from my dad having the seder, and he will only cause harm to my brother’s soul and to his own. But he doesn’t care and adamantly requests my brother’s attendance. We are not even discussing the negative results this will have on my mother who has worked so hard to keep my brother on a straight path and who will genuinely miss him if he is not at her seder.

There is more to this story, and I cannot escape looking guilty to you, the reader. The point of everything I am writing here is that in fulfilling your desires, as a general rule it is important not to inconvenience others in your pursuit to get what you want. If your desires require others to change their position or if your desires will result in others inconveniencing themselves to cater to your wishes, it is important to double check that your desires are not selfishly motivated. Don't be stupid to think that your justifications give you the right to impose on and inconvenience other people. They simply don’t.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rubbing my eyes and squinting at the light.

A friend described me today as having a gambler's personality, extremist in most of what I do. My thoughts are akin to those who get involved in get-rich-quick schemes, as I am always striving to get the edge that would put me overnight in the same position as a one who would work and sweat for fourty years. Take for example, patent law -- now with a specialty in Chinese IP (Intellectual Propery). I could have been a regular lawyer and worked my way up the salary ladder. Nope, I chose a hard-to-enter field and specialized within an already established niche. Instead of started in the mid-five-figure salary, with my specialty I plan on starting in the low six-figure salary. Does that make me a gambler?

I was told that from the depth of what this person knows about me, this gambling personality filters down into everything that I do. I am thinking deeply about this concept because I cannot yet grasp it, but I wanted to write it down so that I can think about it later. I wonder what exactly is the mentality of a gambler, and how that mentality could influence the parts of one's life. I'd be interested in getting your feedback on this one because it is still eluding me.

Second. It spooked me that one of you saw through my words and sensed the other side that I like to keep outwardly locked away. It made me wonder whether my bad parts are truly hidden or if people everywhere see them just as you did yesterday. This is what prompted the whole analysis in the last post.

Lastly, I think deeply about the view of the world that is hidden from me. There is so much dogma that has been supplanted with the truth that has impregnated me with religious morals that I sometimes am foggy about distinguishing what is real Judaism and what is custom and from what source this custom has its roots. I suppose it does not matter as long as I am among others who think this way, but it is good to know Jewish law for it's own sake to know what the law really is without stringencies added on and passed as actually being the law.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Diametric Sides. Sanctimonious Laughter?

I see that through all my attempts at piety and self-restraint, my evil self still rears its ugly head. So since my words give me away -- not in necessarily what I say, but in how I say it -- let's get down and dirty.

The outside shell is obvious. Except for the days I get annoyed with wearing the white and black garb, I am dressed exactly as a frum (religious) person would dress. I have an untrimmed but neatly tucked 4" long black beard which is almost 18" in length when it is unrolled. I dress in black and white and keep everything neat and tidy. When I am outside, I wear a long, black coat. I have a deep, penetrating look in my eyes with mildly dark circles beneath them.

Personality. There is a lot of it. Much of me is genuinely giving and warm inside and outside, and people say they feel an aura of calm around me. The energy I radiate is good. But most of the time my mouth is closed and I am quiet. Why? I am anything but shy.

Mystery revealed, inside of me is a dark, cold, sinister, evil to the degree that my thoughts would shock people if I didn't know how to hold my tongue. My jokes are quick, they are sharp, and they are usually two or three logical steps ahead of what is going on. I am like a master chess player and a cobra wrapped into one skin where my thoughts snap with venom sliding down the sharp fangs. I joke around with people and tell the truth about how terrible my thoughts are and about how self-centered I am, yet people only think I am being modest about being a good person. If only people knew how much coldness and how much lack of compassion and empathy I am capable of, people would never talk to me again. While my mood is so often kept under strict control, there is always a taste of anger that I have that lies dormant waiting to flare at the slightest provocation when I am not paying attention. I'll explain this soon.

If I were asked to determine whether my proclivity is towards good or towards evil, while I may answer one or the other depending on my mood, the truth is that on any day, I would reach for the evil with just as much enthusiasm as I would reach for the good. I am as parve (neutral) as they get not because I am disinterested and not because I just don't care to distinguish between good or bad. Rather, I am parve because in my thoughts, I reach for both extremes of evil and good with such effort that my thoughts literally cancel each other out resulting in me not taking action on my thoughts. Luckily, through my inactions I am unable to sin. So I do see and embrace the dark side within me, however, my good side -- a strong believer in G-d that wants with all my heart to follow his laws and to be a good person -- acts as a circuit breaker whenever I entertain my dark thoughts. Somehow, my good thoughts win out over my bad thoughts. Sometimes for small things, my bad thoughts win out when I am not paying attention or they short-circuit my good intentions when I should be doing a commandment or a good deed. This is not to say I am a pious or a loathsome person; rather, I just have a good side that is slightly stronger than my bad side, and sometimes vice versa.

This doesn't mean that half the time I do bad deeds, and slightly more-than-half of the time I do good deeds. Rather, since my good side is 90% of the time in control of my speech and my actions, I will most of the time choose the right thing to do or the more pious act. Keep in mind that while I may grumble, I do believe that the good act is the right choice. Yet my bad side often rules my thoughts and if I am not paying attention or if I am experiencing a mood swing or if I am exhausted, the bad side may say hello from time to time. Certainly it shows up often in my blog because for the most part, you don't know who I am. I could be the Jew sitting right next to you, or the guy that passes you every day on the street and you would never know it was me. This anonymity gives me the special chance to release the bad thoughts to some extent and to let them run loose on the screen so that I can watch them and learn to conquer them by analyzing and by playing with them.

Yet by no means is there a contradiction between the warmth and goodness inside me and the coldness and evil that slithers through my veins, darkening my thoughts and blackening my sharp tongue. Somehow both of these extremes coexist inside me in a relatively balanced state. Maybe some of you wouldn't agree that they are balanced, and you are right. They are balanced to the extent that my bad thoughts are chained and are shackled down by my dose of morality and religion which help me create and nurture my good thoughts. I work daily to slice away at my bad thoughts with the intent of making them go away. As I have said before, on a scale of 1-10, the intensity of my evil thoughts and my good thoughts both hover around a 12-14 on that scale.

I am truly grateful that I found a metaphysical construct such as yiddishkeit (Judaism) that has replaced my prior moral construct that I built from my limited understanding of the world as a reaction to my past experiences. This might sound ghastly, but it is honest. I believe that the path to serving G-d is by doing what he tells us to do in his Torah (bible). I don't hold my religious views over anyone else -- in fact, I would pat myself on the shoulders because I have made many non-religious non-Jews quite religious within their own beliefs of how they see G-d. For me, as long as I don't promote idolatry, and as long as I lead others to do good from an honest and un-dogmatic ultra-logical way, then I have done my part. As for me, while I have two diametrically opposed personalities co-existing, my goal is to utterly destroy the bad aspects that think evil thoughts and that act selfishly, sinisterly, and egocentrically, and... what was that word?!? ...sanctimoniously.

AriK, thank you for your criticism of my inexcusable attack on my father. You are right, it was very cold. Keep in mind, I didn't become this way by sheer luck. A person's irrationality could be merely heightened rational feelings from past wrongs that have not yet been made right. You are right though, whether you said it or not -- all these negative feelings eat away at me like a piranha; except I am being bitten from the inside.

Tonight was an interesting night for introspection. Have a good night! 55.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gates to be Opened.

I shouldn't have written that last post about my father. He's really a wonderful man. There is just a lot of messed up things that happened because of his belief systems and what you see in his life is the karmic result. I do believe there is divine justice, and that nature or some G-dly force has his eye on you even when you are alone. Whether you are a good person or not is not the determining factor whether you will have a good life. The determining factor is 1) what you do with your life, and 2) how you live it. If you live a life floating down the current, so to speak, moving with the herd, so to speak, your life will be mediocre like everyone else's life is. If you inject a sense of gusto into your world and are proactive -- essentially, if you are always one step ahead of life, and you influence life instead of life influencing you -- then the doors for a good and meaningful life swing wide open, the light shines, and an invitation for the good life appears in your pocket. However, live a life passive indulgence and just go with the flow, then no soup for you.

Choose wisely.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rebbe Picture

This picture of the Lubavicher Rebbe is probably one of my favorites. I have it on my desktop at law school. What impresses me is the feeling I get by looking at it. It reminds me of the kind of person I want to emulate.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sleep Reprovation

64. I am spooked out by reading my past two blog entries. What kind of mood was I in?!? My loneliness does sometimes surface, especially with the busy law school lifestyle that takes away any free time that would normally be devoted to more human pursuits. Yet it is also true that for the most part, I am an introvert and I love my time alone. By the way, please don't think poorly of me for using the harsh language I did in that post. It was appropriate and necessary to express my state of mind at that time in its purest sense. Hiding those vulgarities with less potent words would have destroyed the message.

Anyway, it's 11pm, and my body is beginning to get used to the idea of going to sleep at a normal time. Three hours each night was simply unhealthy. I never was an insomniac, rather, I just had better things to do than to sleep. I find that on double that, I am becoming more cheerful and more balanced. I just hope I am not ruining my productivity because for the past two weeks, I have been finding these sixteen-hour days to be really short compared to the twenty-one hour days I've been used to for the past two years.

Sitting On My Hands.

46. Readers, I feel like I am cheating you by writing about a subject that has been so pointedly clear in my past blogs and yet I repeat the subject again. I write about loneliness because that is what I am feeling; deep loneliness.

I am feeling the "popular guy" syndrome. Everyone knows me, everyone likes me. If you asked anyone who I am, everyone has seen me around. Yet I go home at the end of the day and my phone does not ring. I enter my house and nobody is home. I pick up the phone to talk to somebody but there is nobody to call. I try to cry, but no tears come. I am a loner, and I am a prisoner within the elite world I have built and I am its only inhabitant.

I lie in wait for the day that someone will decide that they want to date me, forcing myself to metaphorically sit on my hands when really what I would like to do is tear down the walls, break down the system and find a woman on my own. This whole passivity approach where a person lets another person set them up does not work when as a result of the system, you are not meeting people. Yet what do you do when the system has a monopoly over the kind of women you would want to date? Readers, I hate you for thinking I have a choice and that I can just go online to some dating site or that I can find a girl in a bar or at some event where the girl would be of the caliber of someone who loves Judaism and follows it without the grumbles and without their own interpretations as to what laws they will decide to follow and what laws they do not believe in. Can't you understand that I want someone who lives with the system, from within the system as their framework?

"Why then the contradiction within some of your own lack of observances and all the complaining?" you ask. The difference is that when for example I was in Israel and I went to the beach with women present in a place that is not modest, I didn't say that I didn't believe in the laws which prohibit a man from going to a place that has unclothed women and vice versa. Instead, I thought to myself what a piece of dirt I was that I wasn't strong enough to do the right thing when the men’s' beach was just down the road. And during those few times that I neglect prayer, I never deny the validity of the rules and its application to me; rather, I get upset at myself how weak I am that I won't take the half hour out of my uneventful life to do something so simple for G-d that would likely also benefit me too. The answer to why this happens is the same reason why I often don't go to the gym when I love the swimming, the hot tub, and the feeling of exercise -- I simply do not feel like doing it at that particular moment.

But it is unfair for you to think that it is my choice to live a single life. It was my choice to live a religious life. It was my choice to try to live a pious existence and to abstain from sex and fucking and dating and clubbing. It was my choice to shut off the TV and to stop seeing the movies and to stop shaking women's hands and to stop hugging and touching, even if it was for the sole sake of interpersonal touch. (Do you know I got a scholarship in college because I wrote a paper on the therapeutic benefits of people touching and hugging each other?)

These were all my choices because they are the moral fibers for the religious life I want to lead. How much of a puss-filled infected pimple would I be if I considered touching a woman even on the shoulder when I know that my wife-to-be has likely never done that with a man? How disgusting would I be if I dated women and fooled around with them when I knew that my wife-to-be might be waiting for marriage as I am?

If the answer in your head is "but you're human" you might as well say "but you're a pleasure-seeking animal like me" because there is something irresponsible about a person who hedonistically indulges in every fantasy. [Maybe that is just my indoctrination talking because if you asked me, logically it seems wrong to hold one's self back from pleasure-seeking. Even those pious people are guilty of looking for a good job, a good wife, many kids and the luxuries and pleasures that derive from having those things. And true asceticism is stupid because it takes you away from the physical world where the true power to bring down spirituality lies.]

Plus, people did not make themselves available to me as readily as others think they do. "But you're a handsome man" they would say, "You can get any girl". I used to think "tell that to the girls". All members of this under culture who have sex with each other and who screw around and take sexual boons and favors from their peers fully eluded my temptations because they never made themselves available to me. Even here at law school -- I see everyone hooking up with everyone. I was warned in Rabbinical College from the other students who previously graduated from law school that when I go to law school, everyone will be having sex with each other and the temptations to join them will be very great. But whatever I do, I shouldn't give in to those temptations because they will corrupt me. Well, from what I am told from people who are engaging in that hedonistic lifestyle, that is the way it is. When I asked why I didn’t see it before I was told about it, they tell me that because I am religious, I have been below the radar. Should I thank G-d for giving me this painful blessing in disguise? Or should I curse him out for putting me in a position where I must abstain from my temptations – my favorite sin -- all day, every day.

So I am below the radar, and I have my piousness to thank for that. That doesn't make the sadness any less when I have nobody's hand to hold and nobody to hug or to hold. Wait it out, the religious world says -- in good time, you will find your match -- "soon by you" they all say.

Yesterday I danced my heart out at a friend's engagement party. "Soon by you" everyone told me. That's also what people told me at my close friend's wedding. Yet I look around and soon does not feel so soon. My heart aches each minute of the day from my loneliness, and from this downward cycle I can not pull myself out of from for more than a few hours at a time. I look around at how everyone is with someone, whether it be a wife, a husband, a date, a girlfriend or a friend with benefits. Even those with troublesome partners still have some kind of void filled. My void aches and screams out to the world with such agony and pain that no one-time experience will cure the pain. My pain wouldn't even be healed if I gave in and found someone in a bar or even multiple people to do the most immoral things with. What I am missing is the companionship and the feelings of knowing there is someone thinking of me and me of her that go along with a meaningful relationship.

While I was dancing at the engagement, I felt disconnected with the moment. I feel disconnected right now. No acquaintance or study partner or good friend will solve the kind of loneliness I am feeling. Sometimes I think of just going away to a foreign country and telling the world to call me when something comes up.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Echoes of my Existence and Fading Soundwaves

I actually have nothing to say tonight so anyone who wants some good content filled with theosophical (theology/philosophical) jargon, move on. I am actually more interested tonight in letting my fingers do the typing because I am interested what they have to say.

Fingers, you disappoint me. You wrote about a topic I didn't want to speak about. Okay, let's try a topic I won't have to delete. Try again.

Do you often feel your heart closed, beating deep within your chest? Can you feel the empty space within the hollow of your heart? Can you cry at an instant's notice over sadness that has no name because it has been there so long you forgot how it got there?

I tried a yoga tape this week which was supposed to promote calm and increase flexibility. Interestingly, one of the exercises at the end included a chakra meditation. Since I haven't always been religious, I knew what that was and went along for the ride because I don't think there is anything wrong with it according to jewish law.

Do you know what I experienced? My heart chakra is closed. It has been closed for over ten years now. I knew it was closed in college, because I felt the change in me as the light was getting sucked back in and trapped. I lost a part of me and part of my innocence one day when I found out that not even the special people can handle my intensity. Everyone gets burned up by it. People love doses of it, in fact, in my past, they would crave it. But give it to them? Forget about it. Think about charcoal with smoke rising from the ears. I am describing my intense feelings and how I have yet to meet a person who can look me straight on and be able to receive it or reciprocate it.

My poor wife to be. What trouble she will have with me. I can pat myself on the back and say what a loving, caring, giving person I am, and I am. But for her to deal with my hyper-focused phases and my lofty reachable dreams and my intense thoughts, she would need to be an angel of music to relate to this. The twist is that the angel of music is the phantom, but the phantom is so often me. My feelings feign hopelessness. I don't think there is a person in the world whose shoulders I can rest my head on. There is nobody whose lap I can snuggle into who I can connect with and who will get me. Wow would she be the gift of all time.

Do you know I corrupt people? Careful reading my words, I think they evoke emotions. I carry potion-tipped arrows behind each word which metaphorically gets shot through your monitor and into your soul. Don't think you can duck. My thoughts become your thoughts; I am contageous. I think luxury, people around me think luxury. I think sadness, people around me feel sadness. I think happy thoughts, people around me become unusually chipper.

I wish sometimes that my words would be taken at face value and not personally by the person receiving them. People love to relate what I speak as if I am speaking about them and their lives. I often have to include a "not you" disclaimer lest they get influenced by my sharp tongue behind my perched lips. Keep in mind, I don't even think the word perched exists in the context regarding lips and tongue, but that is the word that I thought was most appropriate, so I used it.

It is lonely being the one who doesn't have a wife, a girlfriend, or a friend. I have friends, but nobody I can turn to right this second whose had I can hold. There is nobody that looks at me with love-struck eyes, and there is nobody that thinks I am the greatest thing that G-d ever created. It would be great if I could fill that void with my own egotistical thoughts, but I am so realistic that I see my faults without judging them; they are just there to be lessened or mastered.

I do feel my empty heart. It hurts me physically every day and sometimes I can cry from the loneliness. My sadness is never dark; I live a very cheerful life. However, my feelings feel like echoes of a sound in a room with nobody to hear. What a waste is a soundwave which has no recipient. What a waste is an emotion that is sent out but never affects anyone you love. These are just echoes of my existence. My sound waves fade, and my emotions dissipate as they have nobody to receive them. Why is it that sound does not maintain its volume when it echoes in an empty room? It gets absorbed by the matter of the planet. I sometimes wish I were absorbed too.

Sometimes when I talk to people, they don't hear me; my words are wasted soundwaves. I do not speak quietly, yet my words pass around my intended recipient not evoking their attention or their interest; they are spoken as if I am not there. It feels so good for people to notice me as a person with a pulse. It would feel nicer if they would want to enter my thoughts and my emotions so that my words might have some import in their lives. (Import is a word to signify importance). Yet to many people I am invisible. There are a few outside my family who take an interest, but they cannot cure the emptiness I feel.

Do you know that a friend of mine got married a few weeks ago on a Sunday, and I didn't even know about the wedding until the Thursday night beforehand when I accidentally called his roommate? Him and I had a pact that we would be at eachother's weddings. Do you know another friend got engaged and told everyone at law school but he didn't tell me? I found out this morning at the prayer service where they announced his engagement and the location of his engagement party. Last semester, a friend of mine had a birthday party and invited everyone at school out to the city except for me. For each and every one of these missed invitations, each person felt terrible that they forgot about me, but that is exactly it. They forgot about me. I am not important enough to be in their thoughts.

I say this not as a complaint, but as a matter of fact statement without emotion. I know my family thinks about me. I know my rabbi and his family think about me. I know maybe a few people from law school think about me. I'm sure people talk about me. But generally, I am invisible.

Then I wonder whether it is actually me that shuts THEM out. Do I block them out from my life and so that have no room to squeeze into the fragments of space I have left for them? Do I not let them in?!? My heart chakra is closed -- are the doors to my friendship and my heart also closed? I have such a difficult time connecting to people because many of those around me are stone cold, fully absorbed in their own overwhelmed existence. They don't even look into my eyes. Do I have fire coming from them?

Readers, I am truly sorry if you wanted for this blog entry to end a long time ago. There is no end to this thought because there was no beginning. These are lingering thoughts that ruminate in my head. I feel this way most of the time, every day. There are my predominant thoughts if I do not control them with focused subject-matter. Sweet dreams. Gut chodesh (it's the new Hebrew month of Nissan).