Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Ultimate Cheer

My friend Seth has this cheer for before an ultimate frisbee game. He’ll come running into the huddle and start a story. The story escalates in absurdity and so does the team’s response with alternating “YAAAY”s and “BOOO”s. Something along the lines of:

“Guys – I’m so sorry I’m late – it’s because we had SUCH a great tournament party last night!”


“But now I’m really hung over.”


“But I’m ready to play defense anyway!” 


“But I can’t play because I threw my cleat in the ocean with a message for the people of Indonesia last night…”


And so on and so forth until either our team gets fired up to play, or the story becomes so outrageous that the other team gets engrossed and comes over to join us.

We also bring a couch to the fields...and bacon

This cheer is analogous to my experiences since returning to the Middle East from a few weeks in the States. Take any aspect of it. The war, for example: a real ceasefire (yay!) to the following land grab by Israel in the West Bank, thus continuing to ostracize international alliances or even compassion for the Jewish State and its cause (boo!). Or moving into a wonderful new apartment (yay!); and having the faucets and the stove immediately fall apart (boo!); but getting them fixed with the kind support of our landlady (yay!); who then proceeded to scold us like little children for getting overcharged (boo!). (I swear, dealing with Israelis is like eating Sourpatch Kids or Warheads – you just gotta pucker up and hang on for the ride ‘til the outer layer dissolves.)

Or how about going to play in a frisbee tournament on Saturday: I found out on Thursday that my toe had only been dislocated instead of broken, so I would actually be able to play (yay?); I woke up at 5am to catch a sherut (mini-bus) at the central station, only to remember after my 40-minute walk that they don’t run from that side of town on Shabbat (boo!). Huffing it back to the East side, I found many sheruts waiting to leave for Tel Aviv (yay!) and got juggled by six shouting Arab men into four different sheruts over the span of 30 minutes. Each time, I was the first passenger in a bus that must be full before it departs (boo). I returned to the shouting men and kindly declined one offer to drive me to Tel Aviv directly for 300 shekels (boo!), but then got in a cab to the secret sheruts  (and by secret I mean the ones I just didn’t know about) – a ride for which the kind old man, Rami, did not charge me at all (yay!) (I may leave the part out where he kept patting my knee…grandfatherly or creepy ? The ride was short enough that I did not need to make a clear distinction or assess the speed at which I could leap from the car, which was great because he seemed nice and it was still too early in the morning for a dive-and-role). I was the second-to-last person on the bus and was immediately whisked away to the big city very, very quickly (yay!)…on a speeding bus ride of death (blarf).

The latest in this proverbial roller coaster (were there roller coasters in Proverbs? If not, what would they have said instead? A Judean hill chariot race? Fishing boat on a stormy Galilee?) – anyway, the latest escapade of this sort was navigating the medical system. I’ve recently diagnosed myself with a deadly, flesh-eating bacteria (boo!) but had a not-so-painful appointment yesterday during which the doctor actually answered my questions and even drew me a map of where to go to the pharmacy. I found a receptionist who told me where to go to drop off my packet and then encountered a super friendly pharmacist (all yay!)

And by comparison, I’d much rather be at the doctor than the bank. My roommate and I returned from our respective life errands at the same time, but her simple chore to remedy a wrongly dated check spawned treks to two separate branches, a series of blank stares accompanied by completely fabricated fees with multi-step transactions, and hostile rebukes for messing up the check in the first place…none of which resulted in any clear way to solve the issue because that task is just too tricky to tackle. My tough-as-nails Brit cried in public. She has never cried in public, at least not since England lost a war (oh, wait – yeah, she’s never cried in public.) They gave her a glass of water and asked her why she was crying over a silly piece of paper. …boo.

New roommate Lucy and I bonding over Proverbs, roller coasters, and cactus fruits

Lately my life has felt like playing he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not with the flower petals of my sanity (which is, ironically, a not-so-far-off analogy to be frank). It’s a gentle roulette that turns me to meditation and chocolate. But I am not so blind or narcissistic as to not understand that this is all a hyperbolic anecdote of what every other creature is going through: that is, simply life itself – a cosmically balanced cycle of ups and downs to which we are intended to respond with grace and an open mind and perhaps someday even influence through positive intention. And like the freezer door that falls out every time we open the fridge, it’s actually quite funny when it doesn’t make you cry. But when you are in a foreign land and everything is just a smidge more complicated and those cycles come in large waves that coincide with a particularly emotional other cycles in the month (which is not an excuse but simply a reality), then this life roller-coaster-ancient-fishing-boat-on-the-stormy-seas makes me want to curl up in the fetal position or barf - depending on how much chocolate I’ve eaten already. 

Frankly, I usually enjoy these free-falls - the moment of seeing that huge drop in front and reaching the realization that it’s coming whether I want it to or not - so I might as well commit and enjoy it. (Let’s define “commitment” at a surface level for now, though. We’re talking small decisions - not life choices - for the time being. Yesterday I spent quite literally 10 minutes in the baking aisle trying to figure out which chocolate to use in the brownies I was baking for my friend in the hospital. Didn’t matter I guess – I burned the SHIT out of them anyway (boo). But my point is that decisions are not my strong suit (yet), so I’m taking one small commitment at a time). I acknowledge this about myself and so I think that leaning into these drops is actually a healthy thing. I can’t change the banking system or predetermine which sherut driver doesn’t have a death wish, so maybe the best thing to do is to get out on the field and tell the story with vigor; to sob when it feels right and to cheer when the heroine conquers the flesh eating bacteria and gets new faucets in the bathroom.