It doesn’t turn back into a tree again

It started with one person in a difficult situation doing her best but also consciously leaving her problems in somebody else’s lap.

I left home.

You’re reading this blog because I left home.

But before I left home, I had to get rid of my stuff, stuff accumulated over a lifetime, some of it, and some of accumulated over the 18 months I’ve been in this apartment.

The thing about your stuff is that nobody wants it but you. It can be totally great stuff, stuff someone could use for another 10 years easily, but nobody wants it but you.

Part 1: Planting seeds and the ripple effect

I was fortunate to get a call from a woman who was recently divorced and whose husband had taken everything. She came over and declared “I need everything.” I said, that’s great, but I need your promise you really take everything. I have a flight the next day, so if you aren’t going to take everything, I’ll need to have someone come in and take the rest.

She assured me she would.

I guess I don’t need to tell you what happened next.

All this went to the trash

All this went to the trash

The worst part of it was that she wasn’t even going to tell me. It wasn’t until she was walking out the door, my apartment completely a mess, with half of it out and half of it in, that I asked her when she was coming for the rest, and her friends, who had come to help her move, looked at me in shock. Not one of them knew that was the promise. They were professional movers but they’d brought  vans, not a moving truck. “If I’d known…” they said, they’d have brought a truck. “If I’d known… “ I said, I would have helped you pay for a mover. Now I need to pay for a mover myself.

“Why don’t you just leave it?” one of them said. “You’re leaving the country anyway.”

“Because that’s not how it works, that if someone screws me, I screw the next guy. I don’t want to plant those kinds of seeds that will grow into trees,” I answered.

The next 30 hours were a blur, but somehow, 30 hours later, I was on a plane. My apartment was empty, cleaned and freshly painted for the next resident. I thought, isn’t it funny how this cost me 1500 shekels, exactly 100 times what she told me that her husband had screwed her for in the courts? I am left with the small bill, because I cleaned up my mess the moment it happened.

Even so, there was a huge ripple effect. I’m going to list what was visible to me for one reason: you can see how one small act creates dozens of small effects on dozens of people. We don’t like to look at the consequences of our actions, but it’s useful to take something so small like this: 30 hours and 1500 shekels (approximately $380) – a small thing – and just take it apart for a minute. You might not want to read the whole list, just skim, but it’s fascinating to see how big the effect is of one action.

  • 7 people who came to do a good deed for a friend left the site feeling horrible about screwing a total stranger.
  • 4 of those people were children / teens who watched the shocked look on their parents’ faces and mine as they saw how they left me. I hope they didn’t learn not to help a friend, instead of learning to help a friend.
  • I never found the key she had borrowed from us, and I keep wondering if she lied about that and is going to rob the people who are moving in next, since she lied about other things.
  • At 10 pm at night, a moving company made tons of calls to find people to help with the move in the morning, to no avail.
  • At 10 am the next day, the owner of the moving company (a guy about 30 years old) showed up at my door, alone, and single-handedly decimated every item that was too big to fit into the elevator and dragged it all out to the street for the city to pick up. (Part 2 talks about the decimated furniture aspect of all this.)
  • My landlord had to pull strings at the municipality to get them to pick up on a non-trash day, and presumably the drivers and trash guys had extra work.
  • The mover, who was supposed to have the day off, had one of the hardest days of work possible, right before a day where he has two jobs in front of him. Presumably, he came home tired and hungry instead of full of energy and ready to spend time with his two-year-old.
  • Two parking spaces near the center of town were taken up by trash on the busiest shopping day of the week, so numerous people ended up driving around looking for spaces.
  • Because of the panic there were a number of small things that ended up my ex-husband’s problem instead of mine. I gave him the wrong key to the storage unit, left him with some bags I’d forgotten to pack, had him deal with the phone roaming, etc.
  • I spent a good part of the day lifting and helping him, which was good, because, obviously, I didn’t get to the gym. I also didn’t get the time to buy any gifts for my friends and family who I am visiting.
  • My good friends who wanted to have time to say goodbye on the phone with me found me stressed and preoccupied and unable to speak to them for five minutes that last day.
  • The storage company was worried I didn’t show up until the last minute with the few things I wanted to store and called me several times during the day.
  • I postponed or cancelled my call with my best friend several times during the day, and he was left worried and unable to support me because I was so stressed.
  • I fielded about 100 calls and messages from people who wanted the sudden free furniture I offered online, and everyone ended up disappointed (everything ended up in the trash). I’ll write more about that below in Part 2.
  • My daughter had to deal with moving her cat alone because I was preoccupied.
  • The house didn’t get as clean as I would have liked so the next resident was left with extra work.
  • I didn’t get to spend any time with my children that last day, except for the time they were helping around the house. I left my daughter for at least 3 months without properly having a nice meal with her on my last day.
  • I slept 3 hours over 2 nights.
  • I ate 1 proper meal over 2 days and just managed with fruit or whatever I could grab.
  • A number of phone calls for a client were postponed to the following week, further delaying a website project.
  • We cancelled a meeting about the Voice of Humanity Branding, meaning we are another few days late in starting to raise money for an amazing cause.
  • 3 days later I found out that someone who had put something out back for herself to pick up later didn’t and the house residents had to deal with additional trash.
  • The mirror in the elevator was damaged because the mover didn’t have the staff or equipment to properly protect everything.
  • The stairways and the elevator were left dirty because I didn’t have the time to clean up after everyone.
  • My landlord ended up dealing with one giant cabinet I didn’t have the heart to destroy or to make the lone mover carry down the stairs. (Hopefully he at least found someone to take it free so someone could enjoy it.)
  • We got to the airport an hour later than we wanted, our luggage didn’t get on the plane, and we spent 5 days without our luggage, costing the airline a good $700 and allowing us a new wardrobe.

Nothing tragic. No human lives. And all of this is just what I saw. Who knows what else was affected because the person in charge of the building got upset and was grouchy all day, because the mover was with me and not somewhere else, because I could have spent that money elsewhere, because the trash went to a landfill, because the bed went to the trash instead of a family who needed it? We’ll never know how much damage there was.

Part 2: Planting trash and our disdain for stuff

Stuff has no value anymore. I just bought a used car, which, for some reason has some value, but when you look on the road, you know that 99% of cars as old as this one don’t.

Throwing out so much stuff pained me. I wanted it to go to someone who needed it, someone who wouldn’t cherish it as much as I did, but who would use it. But stuff is less valuable than convenience. Used stuff for sure.

Two guys came in to take my cabinet, but all they took was one look and decided it was too much trouble to take it apart and put it back together. At retail, they’d spend $2000 to get something this nice. But convenience is more important, so maybe they found something else for free, or maybe they didn’t. Who knows?

All that stuff, it doesn’t become a tree again. It doesn’t go back to earth like our bodies or our excrement. It becomes junk on the earth. All the toys we got our children and all the books we used to read, all the cassette tapes, and all the fridges that no longer work. All the concrete that used to be a building and all the fiberglass that used to be cars. A little of it gets recycled, once, maybe twice. But most of it just becomes junk on the earth.

I’m not saying anything you don’t know.

I just had the horror of witnessing half of the contents of my apartment filling up 2 parking spots and being picked up by the municipality.

Almost all of my stuff was already second hand, some of it more. It had, by most people’s standards, been recycled more than the average number of lifetimes. None of that makes it take up less than 2 parking spaces.

Everything I own is now either with me where I travel, or in storage in 4 cubic meters somewhere, and the only things I kept were the art work my family painted, sculpted or drew, all the physical written letters anyone has ever sent me, and a few personal items. Nothing with any money value.

And so it goes. What has value can’t be bought with money. So why do we own so much stuff?


Going, going… gone

I bet I’m not the only one with the delusion that if I just disappeared, nobody would notice. It seemed neat that I could just move countries surreptitiously, and over time, people would figure it out. Yeah, right.Jesus

In this post, I tell you why I’m leaving Israel and answer your FAQs about that. I later go into some of the deeper spiritual, philosophical and political reasons underlying this life change. I will be starting a new blog, the Barefoot Gladiator, to follow my travels, so if you like this, you’ll want to follow The Barefoot Gladiator.

What happened?

“What happened?” is the question I get most often when people hear I am leaving Israel.


Nothing happened, that is why I am leaving Israel.

I got to a point in my career where nothing happened, nothing was going to happen, and nothing was what I could expect for the rest of my life.

I’m working on three projects right now.

  • Gangly Sister, a company with the mission of transforming how girls are portrayed in the media. For that to succeed, I need to relocate to where there is a children’s media industry.
  • A non-profit, officially called the Voice of Humanity but which I have fondly called The Treason Project over the years. I have thought about it for a long time and it’s time to take action now.
  • Business consulting and marketing writing, which pays the bills and can be done anywhere the world.

The short story is that if I wanted to stay doing business consulting and writing for the rest of my life, I could stay where I am. But that’s not what I want.

Where are you going?

It feels stupid to say I don’t know, but I don’t know. I am going to land in Philadelphia and buy a car. I’m flying to Vegas for week to go to the Licensing Expo. I’m driving around the Northeast with my son for a few weeks visiting family.

Then I will do the next thing. Followups from the licensing show. Fundraising for the nonprofit. Central Europe is really nice. I dunno. I’ll have a computer, a phone and a car.

Invite me. I’ll probably come.

Digital Nomad. It’s a thing.

What about the kids?

Although theoretically, the father only puts in one cell and I had to build the babies inside me from nothing, he gets just as stuck as I do with the kids for the rest of his life. In our case, more stuck, because he’s a homebody and I don’t seem to stay put for very long.

26 years, can you believe it? I’ve been living in one country for 26 years, and in this city for almost 18 of them. For me, that’s a crazy long time to be in one place.

My country, Israel, was built by a bunch of loonies, many of them no older than my children, who picked themselves up, left their native lands, and moved here. My kids are old enough to be OK. My daughter has a few months before her draft date. She’s planning to travel but hasn’t figured out where. I figure that works out well with my plans. Either I can hang out with her or I can (gasp) give her my car and pray.

My son’s a little younger. He’ll be living with Dad. I guess ultimately the daughter will too. Don’t ask about the cat. Somehow Dad ended up with that too. It’s good to choose the right person to marry, and, given the divorce rate, sometimes better to know who makes a good former husband.

I don’t want to pretend that was a hard decision. It was neither hard nor easy, nor a decision. Leaving my children was the consequence of another decision.

We are all at the point in life where we can choose where we want to live. They are welcome to come and live with me, of course. But that’s not what they want to do.

I won’t pretend it’s easy, either. My children and I have great relationships. We love being together. I hope we’ll speak often. I don’t know how it will look.

Those are the FAQs

Most people are satisfied with those answers. As a friend pointed out to me, “I can be supportive of you because I’m not responsible for you. If you were my mother or my sister, I’d be concerned. But I’m your friend so it doesn’t really impact my life.”

That pretty much sums up life, doesn’t it: I love you and as long as you don’t do anything that impacts me directly, I am totally cool with it.

Vanilla. Choose.

Life simultaneously feels like you could choose anything and that you can only choose one thing.

What I mean is that I could, fundamentally, go anywhere in the world I want, learn anything, pursue any profession. At the same time, when I am listening to my body, my heart, and the signs in the universe, it seems there is always one obvious choice. I can do any of the other things, but if I don’t choose the obvious choice, things keep getting stuck and need a lot of fixing. When I do choose the obvious choice, things flow.

What does stuck look like? What does flow look like?

The little signs I’ve been on the wrong path have ranged from skin rashes to bad dates, but most of it focused around career and money.

Stuck looks like: screening 600 portfolios to find 1 artist for a comic book, only to have her quit after the first one and have to start over. It looks like getting to final stages of 5 job interviews but having the companies decided not to hire anyone. It looks like having tons of friends but spending every Friday night alone.

Flow looks like suddenly getting freelance work that exactly fits the bills you have to pay. It looks like the day after your friend cancels a trip to Vegas, another friend calls out of the blue and says they are coming. It looks like your friends calling to throw you a goodbye party and agreeing to paint your apartment with you in lieu of a party.

I try to be a rational businessperson, and to say those are just coincidences or that I’m responsible for how things did or didn’t flow at any given moment. But if I’m honest with myself, the world is full of things I don’t understand. Reading the spiritual signs that it’s time to move on is the best anyone can do.

I’m going to die. You are, too, BTW.

A few people in my life have told me I should not be chasing dreams but establishing myself as a consultant and saving so I can have a secure retirement.

After my secure retirement, presumably I will die.

No matter how I slice it, I will die. Parts of my life will be comfortable and parts of my life will be uncomfortable, and then I will die.

Whenever I get scared about the move I am making, I think about where I’m going, my destination. The destination is a hole in the ground.

When I think about that, it gives me the strength and courage to do anything I flipping want to do.

A lost generation

I’ve been looking around at who among my friends has pursued some higher mission. All of my friends, pretty much without exception, do work for higher causes. But who among them has devoted most or all of their career to making major changes.

Most of the people I can think of in that category are 15+ years older than me or 10+ years younger. (If your children are teenagers, you are approximately in my generation) I remember high school and college in the 80s, the Reagan years. I remember thinking that social activism was a good idea, but it didn’t produce anything. I remember thinking that being a journalist would be a way to make a difference, but it didn’t pay anything.

I look at the friends who have devoted their lives to a cause, in particular the ones 15+ years older than me, and I see it did produce something. People who created a chain of schools, a person who created a national organization for people with mental health disabilities, the people who created this country. During most of the time they were creating the thing, you saw nothing. It looked like they were doing nothing, but after 1o or 20 or 30 or 100 years, there was something indisputably there.

It seems to me that fewer people in my generation (if your children are teenagers, you are in the generation I am talking about) are devoting their lives to anything other than a regular corporate life. I don’t see many of them even in parliament or government or even as startup founders. Almost all of us are doing our contribution on a volunteer basis, on a small scale. This generation seems to be leading very little. Well, there’s the US Presidency, but that seems to be a bit of an exception.

It’s easy to feel too old to shift my entire career and life focus. It seems like a crazy deviation from everything my friends are doing. Fortunately, it’s easier to feel bored out of my skull with my career.

My friends have been incredibly supportive. As a generation, I think there was quite a bit of brainwashing we underwent about being realistic, making a good living, and the ineffectiveness of activism. I had to unbrainwash myself.

Does this country even have a future?

I don’t like to talk about this, but another reason I say I’m leaving, and not necessarily on a temporary basis, is because I think the country has no future. I’m admittedly a bit of a Cassandra, but stil

I’m a Zionist. It seems a silly thing to say. Only a Zionist would leave the United States and live in Israel for 26 years.

Four years ago, I was walking down the street with my 11-year-old son. He said “I love my country but I don’t think I will live here when I am big.” I jumped. I know this boy. He belongs here.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” he says. “It’s just, they have drones. Soon the bombs will get to this part of the country.”

If an 11-year-old boy can see this in 2012, anyone can see it today. The entire region is so militarized. I’ve been involved in politics and in some form of the peace movement on and off for almost 20 years. More people seem to be getting involved, but with increasing levels of frustration, resignation and hopelessness. They say, we need to do this because there’s no choice, and it’s urgent. It’s desperate. I’ve only met one person with even a glimmer of hope in his eyes. He actually has a plan that could work, BTW (Itai Kohavi, in case you’re interested.).

I think almost everyone living here has their own reasons why they think the future of this country is in danger, one way or another. Some might think stupid peaceniks like me are ruining the place, some think the economy will tank, and others think ISIS will take over the world anyway.

Something fundamental needs to change, and it’s not at the level of an individual country anymore. It’s on the level of humanity, and how we organize our society. I’m working on that. I hope it will save my country, too. I mean, not exactly. I’m not sure the idea of nation-state will survive this level of reorganization, but I suppose what I mean is it will save the culture and the land.




Jerusalem lost and found

Looking at Movit, I was uninspired. 2 hours and 46 minutes from my home to my meeting. 

A bus. A wait. Another bus. Another wait. Another bus.

On bus #2 I fell asleep and when I opened my eyes, they saw the hills of Jerusalem. They were covered in buildings and a rail line that weren’t there several years ago. But still, they were the hills of Jerusalem.

I thought, “What was I complaining about? I’m in Jerusalem. Jerusalem.” I thought, I wish I had a window on the other side so I could snap a picture of this and post it to my blog. Because… what?


Because I can get on a bus and go to Jerusalem, any time I want. It was moving to just think about this.

It’s an honor to be living in this place, at this time. 66 years of Israel. It is not the same Israel I came to 24 years ago. My children will never have the privilege that I had, to live in this country while it could still have some pretense of integrity.

I don’t know what our future is, but I know our leaders do not have a vision. Abba Eben wished for a country that was “normal” when he read the Swiss newspaper headline about someone injured in a road accident. We have a normal country now. Our headlines are just like everyone else’s. Being normal has given us iPhones but it is taking our soul. We still think we are Zionists but we have forgotten why, and we don’t know where we are going. 

About a week ago, my daughter got her ID card at a ceremony at her high school. They talked about the country and what it means to be a citizen and sang the anthem. 

I cried the whole time. I thought: 24 years. I thought: a quarter of a century ago I had the dream to raise my children in this country and I have achieved that dream. It took a quarter century, but look, my children have an identity that none of the generations before them had, and I doubt the next one will have. 

They is precious to me, these years when of being close to Jerusalem. It is precious to me, this heritage. And maybe 6 hours was a long time to spend on buses today. But today I am truly blessed. 


Nudity in the Locker Room

I thought the point of separate locker rooms (and steam rooms) was that you would feel comfortable strutting around nude.womenintowel

It’s shocking how many women seem to keep their privates private, even in the privacy of the ladies locker room.

I find myself apologetically wrapping myself in the towel when walking from my locker to the shower in the ladies locker room at the gym. I don’t do a very good job, either, I just kind of hold it on the front with my backside hanging out. I can’t be bothered.

Why do I have to go through this farce? I am supposed to be naked! It’s a locker room! I’m taking a shower!

Ok, but I feel I have to be polite to all the other ladies, who seem to be carefully covering the half of their body that isn’t dressed while dressing the other half. (Some do top first and some bottom first, which is admittedly more modest as you can slip the panties up into your towel without exposing even a wisp.).

That’s why they have separate steam rooms

Today the absurdity reached the point where I could no longer be silent.

As I was blissfully and buck-nakedly steaming myself in the ladies-only sauna, a woman came in wearing a thong.

A thong? It’s beyond my comprehension. What is the difference between the thong and naked? Are you afraid I’ll find out that’s not your natural hair color? Why do you want something uncomfortable in your crack as you take a relaxing sauna? Am I missing something? Is it just the hair we need to cover and then it’s OK? I don’t know, but I didn’t make any attempt to cover my hair with my towel. Of course, I didn’t need to because my paunch and cellulite were doing a fine job already.

As if that wasn’t bad enough…

No sooner had I gotten over my initial shock at thong-lady, when fully-dressed lady came into the steam room. She was wearing almost knee-length training tights and a tank top. Hey, lady! Most of the girls wear less fabric that to the aerobics class! And you’re wearing it in the sauna? What is up with THAT?

You’d wear less on the beach

Seriously, these same women probably wear bikinis to the beach, but in the privacy of the women’s locker room, on the 5-meter walk from shower to the locker, they must cover themselves and keep that towel on until their panties are firmly in place.

And nobody’s looking

And Nobody’s Looking! Because we are so ashamed of nudity we can’t possibly look at a nude person. Conversations in the locker room must be conducted with no eye contact.

It’s not like that in the guys’ locker room

Now, I haven’t done extensive research, but I did boldly ask a couple of guys. A few of the men wrap themselves in towels, I’m told, but wearing only a smile is perfectly acceptable as well. Of course it is. It would be weird to stand next to a guy at a urinal and then have to cover your junk to take a few steps into the shower, wouldn’t it? I don’t know. I’m just guessing.

One of my FB friends did post that it was going over the line when a guy at his gym shaved in his birthday suit. So apparently, full Monty OK, full shaving routine and full Monty is taking it too far.

Maybe it’s not so funny

How did we become so ashamed of our bodies? Obviously, I have no problem with other women seeing mine – or do I? In fact, the protocol is not to look. I mean, duh, you don’t want to be staring at other people’s treasures, but in fact, if you pay attention to yourself in such a situation – even at the beach, you will find you are deliberately NOT looking. Deliberately not looking is different from just not staring. Check yourself, and you will see it.

I once went to a women’s spiritual weekend, and there was a moment when we were asked to look at one another’s bodies. Like, really look, not in a lewd way, but just look. I realized I had never done that. I had deliberately, always, avoided looking at other people’s bodies, but especially female bodies.

We are ashamed of our bodies. We are unaware of other people’s bodies. And I have news for you.

They are a thing of beauty.

I was struck at that moment at how beautiful so many people were, without knowing it. If you think about it, it’s obvious. You see so many figures of women in art, because they are a thing of beauty. And yet.

We are shamed

We are shamed into thinking that certain body types are right and others are wrong. We are shamed into thinking that we shouldn’t be looking at ourselves or others.

How can we love ourselves completely when we are so ashamed we have to hide our bodies even when we are getting dressed? Who are we protecting? Who am I protecting? Am I so worried I’m going to offend someone if they accidentally get a glance of my bush in the 10 seconds it takes me to pull on my skivvies? I visited the gym in London, and it’s even worse there. They have little separate dressing rooms with curtains so that if you don’t want to change in the regular locker room, you can get more modesty in those little cells. Needless to say, I took the locker nearest the door and made a point of undressing and dressing with reckless abandon.

Take a look

If you are ready to take a stand for womanhood, for the beauty that we all are, it’s time to recognize the beauty and wholeness of our bodies and the bodies of others.

If you aren’t yet ready to prance around in the buff, that’s fine – but if you wear a bikini on the beach, it’s time you stopped wearing it in the ladies’ locker room. It’s stupid. You look fine. Plus we know what you have – you were just wearing a bikini a second ago.

And look. Look at people. Start with people wearing clothes, and with scantily-clad people, but look at them with grace and respect, just like looking someone in the eye. Notice there is a way to look that is neither judgmental nor sexual. It’s just accepting.

Hey, that’s your body. You’ve been travelling around in it for a while. When you can appreciate those bodies around you, you will find you can start accepting and appreciating yours.

And if you see me streaking in the locker room, now you’ll know why.

How to Vote for Mayor

“So, how does the city council work?” I asked the guys running on our ticket.949

“The mayor is King,” answered the most experienced one.

It didn’t take me 10 years to figure out the truth of that statement. It didn’t take me 10 months. I did stay in politics long after that, serving as the chair of the local branch of Shinui, with 3 city council members.

With the elections coming up tomorrow, I thought I’d give you voters some perspective on local elections.

First of all, your vote really, really, really counts. Most people don’t bother to vote in municipal elections, and 300-500 votes gets you a seat on the council. In my town, 8,000 votes gets you into office as the mayor. Yes, really. So vote. It impacts the streets you drive on, the shops you buy in, and the parks you go to every day.

Now that you know you’re going to vote, and you know the Mayor is King, how do you pick the mayor?

You pick the mayor by predicting what he will be like the day after the election. And I can almost guarantee that he will be different the day after than the day before.


I’ll tell you about my first experience why I say that. Our party supported the current Mayor, Hai Adiv. He’s a congenial guy and he had brought in a group of very competent and intelligent people to support him during the campaign. It was very convincing. Soon after winning the elections, though, he began to become suspicious, though. Who can blame him? Lots of people suddenly wanted to “cash in” after having supported him. Within a few weeks, it was clear he trusted only certain family members. Within a few months, he’d rid himself of almost all the intelligent and competent people and was relying only on yes-men and those family members. I don’t think he’s a bad man. I just think that he is someone who relies heavily on family when he is under pressure. The mayor is always under pressure.

I’ve seen this pattern over and over. As a party member, I witnessed first-hand how the leadership of the Shinui party worked. There was a certain group of leaders and they trusted one another very much. Unfortunately, they didn’t open up their ranks to the other competent people in the party. But by and large, they did a good job, because they had a high level of professional respect for one another, though they weren’t related. However, when it came time to expand the party, they were overly protective, and the party eventually imploded because of it.

So, now that I’m looking at who to elect, I’m thinking primarily about character, not about ideas, platform, or popularity. Because at the end of the day, the person’s character will make all the difference. The day after he gets elected, the mayor can get rid of every single person who supported him if he wants, or he can elevate them higher. Residents will get good or bad service based on the people who the mayor brings in. The policy decisions aren’t horribly complex. We all want the same things. Competent and caring appointments will lead to good service. So all I care about is competence and character.

In our elections there’s been quite a bit of borderline campaigning. Posters littering the city or stapled on trees — legit or not? Paying the newspaper to replace the front page story with sponsored advertisements with just a tiny symbol in the corner to indicate it’s paid… very borderline. In fact, anywhere I see a huge poster or ad, I ask myself who is paying for that, and why that particular landowner has a ton of ads plastered over his field.aviva

These borderline activities truly bother me, because they show that someone already has weak character. They have weak character when faced with the fact that if they don’t win, at this point, they’ll be faced with huge debt. They have weak character when they are so close to a win they can taste it. They have weak character precisely at the moment when strong character is needed.

My appeal to you, voters everywhere, is to trust yourself and pick the best character. In the end, really,  Fortunately, as humans, we are evolved and trained to pick up subtleties about other humans. We have a radar for knowing when someone is telling a half-truth, is likely to cheat later, or is coming from an honest place. Power corrupts, and even a strong character may fail us the day after elections. But if you are feeling queasy about anything someone did before the elections, I encourage you to choose a different candidate.

Queasiness turns to full-fledged nausea on October 23.

Turning Point

In both personal and business relationships, there are turning points.conflictontro

Turning points are moments where things could either end or continue, implode or expand.

Sometimes they are simple moments, like the end of a semester, when you say “Let’s stay in touch,” and take someone’s phone number instead of just letting it end. Or when you finish a contract and ask the customer what else they need.

Just as often, the turning points are crises.

Usually they creep up on you.

How to make it turn

A crisis, fundamentally, is simply opportunity to deepen understanding. I mean, we are all different and messed up in our special ways, so something will go wrong. Either side can initiate a fix. I have 4 personal stories of how it can go:

  1. Both sides take responsibility.
  2. One side takes responsibility and the other side goes along.
  3. One side takes responsibility and the other side doesn’t go along.
  4. Neither side takes responsibility.

I’m not OK, you’re not OK

It’s summer. The kids are home. I work from home.

They wake up late. They get on the computer. They bum around. They look at mobile devices for hours. They ask me to make them food. They leave their stuff lying around the living room.

At some point I can’t take it anymore and yell at them. I say I never want to talk about chores again and they should just leave me alone and I’ll do it all myself.

I calm down. I take my son out to lunch. We each say the things that are bothering us. I promise to set aside an hour a day to be with him. I put it in my calendar. He promises to not make me remind him more than once when that hour comes around, and to get off the computer immediately.

He gets up late the next day. He gets on the computer. But before he gets on the computer, he says these magic words: “I hung out the laundry.” The next day, the dude gets up and does the same thing after saying those same magic words.

I didn’t ask him to do that. He just took a look at his own behavior, the behavior that triggered my being upset, and he took responsibility. I looked at my behavior — not making time — and he looked at his.

Why would I ever talk about chores or homework again? We have set it up so that discussion simply will not come up again. The only discussion is something like “If you won’t be home at 4 pm, when should we reschedule our hour?”

Takeaway: If someone apologizes to you, even (especially) when it is their fault, that’s your opportunity to look at your own responsibility in the situation.

Happy endings

When you have to live with someone, the incentive is high to make it work out. That’s not how all relationships work.

Once I wrote a website twice. The customer wasn’t happy with the first website, so I wrote it again. New structure, new style, new text. The whole thing. 40 web pages. In under a week. They still weren’t happy.

I said, OK, I see that you have very specific ideas of what you want. I thought I was up to this job, but it’s not working out. I suggest you write it on your own rather than outsource. No charge. (First failed project in 15 years!!! So grateful!)

They said, wow, we really respect that. It was a very pleasant conversation, and they honestly did use their own text for their website, and I did not bill them. I’ve referred customers to them, when I thought it was a good fit.

If they’d said to me, you are the 3rd writer who has tried this and we feel we should pay you for your time, I might one day consider working for them again. (I know I’m at least the 2nd.)

As it is, I think they are great people, with high standards, and they know that I’m an honest business person. No hard feelings but no continued relationship.

Takeaway: Make a point to apologize first. Even (especially) when the other guys are wrong, take responsibility for your part. It creates goodwill and understanding. Don’t expect them to take their part of the responsibility. Pretend it is 100% you and it will be fine.

Twisted around

I have a friend who can’t get a Visa card because she cancelled a card on which she owed 75 shekels (under $20) when she moved house. Visa couldn’t find her to send her the bill, and eventually when they found her years later, she’d been blacklisted for 20 years or something absurd. She paid them the money owed, and even a fine, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that it was their fault in the first place. There was nobody to talk to.

That sounds trivial, but it happens in personal relationships all the time.

I have a friend I’ve known for a few years. We weren’t friends until one day she said to me, “You know, I realized that for the last 2 years, I don’t listen to anything you say, because you once raised your voice to me. I decided you were the kind of person who raises her voice, and I never listened to you again. I realize that since that incident, you didn’t raise your voice and I am still holding a grudge from 2 years ago.”

I had been super careful not to raise my voice around her after that first incident, because I am the type of person who talks loud. But I realized it really bothered her, and I’d been super polite. It just took her 2 years to realize that I was being considerate in her presence.

We all have people in our life who have changed, who are making an effort for us, or who have apologized, but no matter what they do, we have carved out a reputation for them. It’s all over for them. No matter what they say or do.

Takeaway: Listen when people apologize. Leave them room to improve.

Breaking point

If only I were always an angel and always took responsibility for my part in a relationship. Sometimes I don’t apologize first. Sometimes I don’t apologize at all.

I was on the phone with a friend last week, discussing some misunderstanding. We have different ideas about what it means to “stay in touch”. We’ve been subtly saying varying degrees of insulting things to one another for about 6 months now. We’ve been pretending to be nice, you know, but we’ve been inserting the appropriate jab at just the right spot.

He asks.

“So, where do we go from here?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Now probably isn’t the ideal time to discuss it.”

“Right. Can we speak about that later?”

“Yeah, call me.”




Takeaway: Unless you like a lot of clicks in your life, see the other takeaways.

Bus Stop

“Who are you?” asked the girl next to me at the bus stop. We’d just missed the bus by 2 minutes and I’d commented on that, making it OK to talk to me.

Bus Stop

Bus Stop

I told her my name and she told me hers, Noga. Meeting her was touching. I know you don’t spell Noga with an Ayen, but she is the kind of person who is just touching to meet.

“You aren’t coming from the peace festival, are you?” she asked, “I mean you don’t look like one of us.” She was wearing a sun dress, open sandals and earrings. I was wearing a sun dress, open sandals and huge peace earrings. “I mean, except for your earrings,” she said.

“I guess you can’t hide who you are no matter what you wear,” I said, making some comment about how I’d had a meeting in the morning and that’s why I was wearing such a formal dress. I said I was a business person but that when peace comes, we’ll all benefit.

(This blog post has no point, it’s just a nice story.)

She told me she’s on summer vacation and I asked where she went to school, and she said “Here,” pointing with her elbow. We were at Kfar Hayarok, next to the high school for gifted students.

“Oh, so you’re an outstanding student,” I said.

“Yea, I feel a little weird at the festivals, with all those high-school drop-outs,” she said, and told me her grade average to the 2nd decimal point. That’s how close it was to 100.

It’s funny, I noted. Because I’m a business person and I was at the Peace Festival too. There isn’t really such at thing as where we belong. I know that now. I’m not in high school.

“What are you studying?”

“Music and Machshevet,” she said. “Machshevet is Jewish philosophy.” That’s a much better explanation than my kids gave me. They said it was like Toshba (Jewish culture) which made me wonder why they have both. I still wonder why they have both, but at least now I know the difference. I told her that.

We talked about philosophy and literature and manifesting catching the bus instead of manifesting missing it by 2 minutes. Business people don’t talk about manifesting bus schedules. People who attend Peace Festivals do. They are really big earrings.

(It’s not even really that great a story, but I tell it well.)

She seemed much more well-read than I am. She also seemed much prettier than I ever was. If I were in high school with her, she would be my best friend. I would tell myself she’s prettier and smarter than I am and she would tell herself it’s good that there is someone like me who is as weird as her and doesn’t fit in. I’ve always been pretty and smart and she looks like she fits in just fine.

“I’ve never met someone who doesn’t know Hanoch Levin,” she said, and described his plays to me. It didn’t make me want to see them. She had to send a few texts while we were talking but much fewer than the average teenager. She didn’t have a fancy smartphone. She goes to a fancy school, though. I bet there’s a good story behind that.

We talked about teen literature, which she doesn’t read but I do. She’s grown out of it and I read it because my daughter is almost her age, and that’s what my daughter reads. I didn’t talk to her as if she was someone’s daughter. I didn’t wonder what her parents were like. I just talked to her as if she were exactly like me, just someone on the bus. Someone who would be my best friend if some kind of time warp were to happen. We talked about scifi. Neither of us read much scifi.

I gave her my card. She doesn’t have a card. I said, Facebook me or something. She got off the bus. I went up front to sit with a friend of mine who I saw when we got on the bus, but he was half-asleep then.

(Maybe it has a point. Maybe it has a few. But you’ll have to find them for yourself.)

After I got off the bus, I thought, I bet she has parents and I bet I’d like them. But I didn’t really care about that.

What I really thought was, I hope she adds me on Facebook. One day I won’t be that much older than she. Maybe I’m not that much older now. Friends can be any age. You know it when you find one.