August 12, 2013

Less Alone

Loneliness. It is a feeling we all have I guess, at one moment or another, and one of the hardest things to deal with, even today in the modern world, where everything looks so open and close and connected. Loneliness can still hit you anywhere, anytime and without warning. You can stand in a room full of people and feel totally alone. You can finish a visit to the doctors and feel all alone in the world. You can sit at the dinner table on a Friday evening, and feel lonely. Life is filled with lonely moments. Moments where you feel there is no one out there who cares, who understands, who've been through what you are going through. Life is full of moments where the dark hole of loneliness is all you can see, closing in on you.
Loneliness can be connected to so many areas of life. When you have financial problems, when you have health problems, when you have a Special child, when you move a town or a country. There are others, of course, but these are my lonely areas, things we've been through these last few years that made us stare loneliness in the face.
Orli, Just Breathe - Less Alone
When we just left Israel and moved to Gibraltar I had so many of those moments, I remember the first time it hit me, that feeling of being utterly alone and lost. I was in Morrisons for my first big shop, the one that is intended to fill a new house, and I needed to choose toilet paper of all things. I just didn't know what to do. It seems so idiotic, like such a small thing, but I remember standing there for a good few minutes thinking - I've made a terrible mistake. I should never have left Israel. The moment passed, and I found a very good toilet paper to buy, but that feeling of being alone in the world never really completely went away. I used to have it every Friday evening, which, when we lived in Israel, was when we used to go to my parents for dinner (Friday dinner is a big thing for Jewish people). I used to have it every holiday we spent just us. I used to have it every year in September, when Autumn hits, Jewish New Year comes, and the kids go to school. Every year that came and went made those lonely moments fade a little more. You build your new - new friends, new traditions for Fridays, for holidays, for September. You toughen up and close your heart, just a little more, to not let the loneliness in.
And still there are the moments that sneak up on you, like when I read about the amount of time grandparents spend with their grandchildren, or not knowing a children song that everyone knows, or having a birthday with no family around, or when there is a bad doctors appointment, or when your baby can't breathe in the middle of the night and needs to be rushed to the A&E (to my parents, who are reading this and becoming anxious, it happened 3 years ago. It's an example. The kids are fine). Life is full of those tiny moments, and being an expat you feel them mixed together with a dash of guilt, because it was your choice. You could have stayed, but no. You decided to move, and now you can't really complain about it, because this feeling you have right now? That black hole of loneliness that is filling you? It's your fault. You are to blame for sitting alone at the holiday table, you are to blame for having no friends, you are to blame for the fact that nobody is talking to you at the school gate, you are to blame that you are standing in the toilet paper aisle crying over rolls of toilet paper.
Orli, Just Breathe - Less Alone
The Morrisons. I don't have a photo of the toilet paper aisle.
Guilt, is also a very big thing with Jewish people. Even more than Friday dinners.
These moments of loneliness, for some, grow more and more. The need to be connected, to be a part of some group, the desire to have a "we" to belong to. That, together with the gap that is inevitable between the children's culture and the parents' one, is what drive most people to go "back home", or to form closed ethnic groups in the real and virtual worlds. Because sometimes the loneliness is just too much to bear.
For me it's a different story. I welcomed the loneliness, I still do most of the time. People, obligations and groups make me feel like I am suffocating, and being an expat makes all of that go away, and for me it makes me feel I can breathe. I love the long hours alone in the house, and the freedom that comes with the loneliness. I never wanted to be part of any "we" in particular, I don't enjoy groups (or most people), and I hate obligations of any kind. So we were never a part of any Israeli group, or Jewish group, or expat group. We were, are, mostly just us. And the eclectic "we" we build for ourselves. People that became our family. We had that when we lived in Gibraltar, and now when we moved  to London we have to build it all again. Building is a slow process. I mean, first of all you have to meet new people. Where do you meet new people when you are a thirty something stay-at-home mum? Then you have to like those people. And they have to like you. And then you have to start the long process of "befriending", which is a bit like dating - did they like us? why haven't they called? do you think we should have them over at ours? how many chances do we give them? We are married. We shouldn't have to date anyone. Or go to the gym. But that's for a different post.
After four years of living like this, the truth is we are used to it. Most of the time I don't really think about it. I have my blog, we have a tiny "we" here, and everyday life is usually so hectic around here that it trumps everything. But then I read an article about this Facebook group for Israeli mothers living in London (which, believe it or not, I am a part of. Not a participating part, but I am registered) and they talked about that loneliness, some of our "we" declared they are on their way out of London, the summer holiday is here and we found ourselves completely alone while everyone else were talking about grandparents and friends and shared holidays and the likes, I was feeling alone in the world because my blog wasn't going anywhere and Twitter hated me (read all about it in the last million posts), I felt lost with how to help Yon get ready for Reception, and how to help Ron use his giftedness, and a branch of Hidai's family were about to come over for a week in London.
We don't have a big family, both Hidai and I, but where my brother lives in London and my parents visit about 4 times a year, we don't get to see Hidai's side at all (unless we are in Israel, which does not happen often). We haven't seen this branch in about four years, when we made plans to meet them for breakfast on Saturday. This long period of time that has passed, combined with my trepidation of obligations, and our anxiety about how the kids will behave (they were too young to remember the last time we met Hidai's family, and they are too used to consider just us and my parents as their immediate family) and how Hidai's family will react to Yon (who, beside his glasses and hat, usually saves his worse behaviour for just these instances), all made us a bit nervous when Saturday morning came and we went to meet them at Borough Market.
Orli, Just Breathe - Less Alone
As it happened, it was perfectly lovely. It's funny how you don't really think about time passing in connection to other people, and especially other people's children - you have a certain image you carry around, even if it's been four years. Even if you see current photos on Facebook. You still half except them to be 12. And they are not. They grew up to be very admirable young adults. We've had breakfast in a Spanish place that so reminded me of being in Gib - the waiters spoke little broken English, I ate a toast & tomato, that was less good than I am used to but still made me smile. And miss Gibraltar. The conversation was easy, they had a great connection with Ron (they were willing to talk football. He doesn't need more than that), and weren't judgmental about Yon (who played on the iPhone for most of the time).
Orli, Just Breathe - Less Alone
Spanish toast
Then we toured the market, a place we've never been to and turned out to be a very nice food market for grownups but very not Yon suitable. He doesn't like places he doesn't know, crowded places, and dimly lit places. This market was all of those things. Hidai had to carry him part of the way and he was fine then, but he is becoming too heavy to carry long distances.
Orli, Just Breathe - Less Alone
I got Baklava. it only cost me 3 pound each.
Next to the market there is a pirate ship apparently. A very big one.
Orli, Just Breathe - Less Alone
Ship & boys
And then we went to see their hotel, let the kids run around a bit, and eat some chocolate.
All in all it was a lovely morning. A morning that made us feel, for one tiny moment, less alone.

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