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.