Sometimes I miss the days of blogging when my readership was much smaller – I didn’t have people telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about, making negative judgments about my character, or telling me that I said something I didn’t say. On the other hand, I didn’t get to interface with as many people as I do now, and I’ve always felt very fortunate that my readership is for the most part a very high quality group of people!
Due to some negativity to my recent posts, I considered not writing any more about Karmiel and the religious aspects of life in Israel. These have caused me more stress than anything else I’ve written about for the last (almost) six years. But I’ve decided I’m going to continue to share my personal experience on the topics that I feel are important to me, and if someone doesn’t like it, well, I can’t control what others think of me.
So on to the post that I wrote before I got all this fun feedback!
Yesterday afternoon I was listening to some women sharing some of the challenges they faced when moving to Karmiel, when one asked me a really good question that I had to think about before being able to answer:
“Since you had all the same issues and difficulties when you moved (that those sharing with me were having a hard time with), why are you still so happy to live here?“
I tried to be very, very realistic when I moved here, and to have minimal expectations of anything. Unrealized expectations are very painful and the source of tremendous frustration. As realistic as I tried to be, I couldn’t know before arriving exactly what to expect, and it turns out that even some of my low expectations were too high; they didn’t match the reality I found. I then adapted my expectations since the choice was to feel bothered and disappointed.
Along with being realistic, I try to look for the good in the situation; I’m not a Pollyanna but I do believe that the objective truth is the glass is filled halfway, and we make the choice to see it as as half full or half empty.
A specific example I was asked about was my feeling about living in a community that is primarily secular. Where someone else might be bothered that this isn’t a Sabbath observant community, I focus on how amazing it is that in a secular city, Shabbos music plays thirty minutes before candlelighting throughout the city to announce the imminent arrival of Shabbos, there are so few cars driving on this day and how almost all the stores are closed. I appreciate how many people who aren’t visibly observant respond to my “Shabbat shalom” greeting in kind – it makes me feel aware that I’m living in a Jewish country even if the city is made up of a secular majority. Focusing on what I appreciate helps me stay positive when I see or experience things that I don’t like so much.
I also realized that I needed to actively take steps to find inspiration for myself in order to continue growing spiritually. So I did, and now sharing with others is part of my spiritual and social experience here – in my weekly parsha classes I attempt to share ideas and thoughts that I personally find uplifting, encouraging, or inspiring.
Some people have commented to me when discussing this topic that I seem comfortable with myself religiously, and it’s true – a lot of inner growth for me has happened over the years when I had to define and clarify my values and then find ways to appreciate and validate myself in the absence of outside validation. Homeschooling in the Orthodox world for so many years provided lot of opportunities for this! This is something that has come in handy with feeling inner peace about who I am religiously, especially as I now find myself in a society in which religious definitions are very different than in the US.
My dd15 brought up a pivotal point when I asked her thoughts on why our family has been pretty happy here despite the difficulties, and that was regarding the attitude that we came here with. Our attitude was: this is where we’re going to live and we’re going to make it work! Moving somewhere else wasn’t an option, and neither was being unhappy on an ongoing basis. We weren’t constantly asking ourselves: should we have moved here, where would be better, looking for other communities, etc. A big part of this is that we bought a home here and so we had an inherent motivation and commitment to overcome frustrations and make it work. An equally big part of this is that as parents, we’ve tried to teach our children to find solutions rather than grumble about what we don’t have, and that has meant trying to walk the talk! This saved us a lot of mentally spinning our wheels and constant self-questioning.
Karmiel has been a great place for us, and though there have been disappointments and issues we didn’t expect that have come up, we’re all pretty satisfied with our choice!