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.





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.

Gratitude Is Specific

Often, I use journaling when I’m feeling down. I can get very down, and it helps to put it on paper.

Today, I just picked up one of my little journals and read some stuff I’d written. I didn’t read the date. It was a whimpering gripe about some guy who didn’t love me. It’s a gripe I have today about some guy who doesn’t love me. When I looked at the date, it was 6 years old, and it was totally a different guy. It made me sick.gratitude

What a whining griper I am. How many years can I hang out with the same pathetic gripes about men? I love men! Can’t I think of something else to say about them?

Plenty of blank pages were left in that little journal, so I decided to start with gratitude. I decided to be specific. I started with the father of my children. I wrote a whole page of all the specific things I was grateful for, all the gifts he’d given me. I started thinking of all  the guys I’d never thanked, for all the guys I’d judged, guys who had no idea of how much they contributed to my life. I took time on each one. I spent about 3 hours at this, throughout the day. I was specific. I named names, I wrote the little things we’d done together that I was grateful for, the lessons I learned. I thought about the complete mystery of friendship and human connection.

I went to the gym. I sat in the Jacuzzi. A cute guy chatted me up. He must have known what I was up to with that notebook, because guys don’t chat me up much these days. Possibly because I’m usually a whining griper. Ya think?

I added some more people to the notebook. I’m going to add the women, too.  I have no goal in mind, just gratitude.

If you are my friend, you are probably thinking, OK, can I read this page you wrote about me? Nope. You have to call me and hear me read it to you out loud. If I don’t yet have a page for you, I’ll make something up spontaneously. I promise you’ll be surprised by some of the things I’ll say. I was surprised.

Here’s what I learned about gratitude:

  • Specific gratitude is incredibly powerful. Being grateful for the time my Dad picked me up when my spirit broke down on a bicycle ride seemed more powerful than “thanks for always being there for me”. 
  • Writing it down is powerful. I’m such a lazy cheater sometimes. Every day I do gratitude exercises, but I just say it in my head. Having it on that piece of paper brought out other things. Also, now I can read that notebook in another 6 years and it won’t be full of whining gripes. (I can be grateful to my friend Greg for that. We had dinner last week and he told me that every day he writes down 5 things, and then reads it at the end of the year. I thought, that sounds like a lot of work. I said “wow, cool” and then went home and tried it.)

I learned about myself, too. If you’ve read this far, you must be a friend of mine. If you are a friend of mine you probably know that I value friendship more than anything else. If you’re a family member of mine, you probably noticed that too. Sorry. But I’ve never given a lot of thought about what I valued most in friendship. After 30 pages of gratitude, I now know.

  • Love. We say “that goes without saying.” Well, that’s for sure. And I don’t just mean I should say it more, but I mean I should hear it more. As I did the gratitude pages, I was aware of how much the men in my life love me, but how deaf I am to that most of the time. Love is shown in the little things, like pointing out something beautiful as you drive by in a car. I spent a vacation with a guy who did that the whole trip. He’d be saying “look at this” and “look at that” and the whole time I wondered why kept doing that. It was an expression of his love and attention, but I was oblivious. 
  • Humor. Not everyone has it, but it was a recurring theme. When someone smiles, it’s a light on all the world. That wasn’t funny, but you can laugh anyway. I remembered specific funny things people had said or when they laughed at my jokes or appreciated my humor. Humor is my favorite way to deal with things that aren’t perfect, as in, everything.
  • Forgiveness. We all make a lot of mistakes, and the ones I make tend to be rather huge. It’s like I have this crazy radar that knows the absolute worst thing to say with the precise worst timing, and I do it. A guy once pointed this out to me, but knowing it didn’t stop it from happening. If you are reading this, you probably know exactly what I mean and can point to at least one of those instances. My good friends forgive me all my transgressions. If they didn’t, I’d have no friends.

The side effect of gratitude is warmth. I’ve walked around all day with this warm feeling. I feel completely excited and inspired to fill up the whole book. That never happens with journals where I gripe.

The last entry I wrote was to a friend who I’ve known for over 30 years. That’s a long time. I was quite immature 30 years ago and even 20 years ago, and sometimes it’s hard to believe anyone could have put up with me through all those years. I mean, this is one of the people who has seen the worst of my gripes, my ups and downs, really seen it all. What I had to say was this:

“With you I never felt you had to forgive me for my faults. It was as if you never saw them.”

Recapture the Joy!

I’m on the phone with my graphic artist, discussing the redesign of rebeccarachmany.com when there’s a tremendous outburst of laughter in the background from three teenage girls.

“Sorry about that,” I say. “That seems to just happen spontaneously, the loud teenage laughter.”JOYjoyjoy

“It happens,” he answers.

“That’s what I need,” I say. “The joy. Where did the joy go? Listen to them, they are loud and happy. What happened to that? I want that.”

“They don’t have so many worries,” he said. “I remember that. When you are enjoying yourself as a teen, the rest of the world doesn’t exist.”

“No, it’s not that. They are studying for a math test and they still  have the joy. They have worries we don’t have. Like, when we get a pimple, it’s like, ‘oh, well’  while they obsess about it all day. They have plenty of pressure with math tests and dance class and all that stuff they do. But they still have the joy. I’m going to do that. I’m going to recapture the joy.”

“You should do that,” he says.

“Yes, I’m going to do that. Right after I get that price estimate for printing my business card. Gotta go, have a call with a customer coming in.”