Angela Erickson Jandrew died a week ago, Saturday night. She was a friend of mine from high-school, one of a few I am in touch with today, some 23 years after graduation. “One of a few” both because of the impact of time and distance on relationships and because I never had that many high school friends to begin with. Back when my social and communication skills and ability to read social cues were seriously deficient as opposed to being slightly off; back when I was really and perhaps unpleasantly weird as opposed to a bit eccentric; back when my mantra was “you haven’t thrown a public temper tantrum since you were nine and that means you can progress” and back in the days before I could pass for normal, there existed a few people that liked me or were at least willing to tolerate my hanging around. Friends and non-actively-hostile acquaintances, I like to call them. Angela was one of the friends. She actually liked me. That was what I wrote her mother when I got the news of her passing. Thank you for raising such a person—that could look at someone who was unlikeable and somehow see a person to like. Because I do not know how I would have made it through high school without these people in my life. Those were truly dark days for me.
This is what I hate about myself. An amazingly good person has just died. She liked people. She was positive. She volunteered regularly and she kept it up for years as opposed to slacking off after a year or two. She went to church. She was inspired by her cancer to volunteer more and raise money for cancer research. In short, she was honest-to-goodness good. And instead of focusing on her life, I am turning her death into something all about me. Really, it disgusts me. This is especially true today, on Yom Kippur. And even more especially true when one considers that—at least of the date of this writing—I have been granted my second chance and Angela has not. It just is not right. I realize that this may not be the best time to say this, seeing how that this is the day when G-d is doing the accounting and is sealing my fate for the year and if I am not going to be in synagogue at the very least I should be trying to make nice, apologizing for my sins, thinking positive thoughts about Him, asking him for shit and so on, but really, sometimes you just have to ask “G-d, just what the FUCK are you THINKING?”
What can I say? My timing is bad. But you have to admit that the question applies.
Before anyone feels too bad for me, I should point out that it is not as though I have been a particularly close or a good friend. She has been ill for some time. Most of my “support” has been comprised of commenting on her Facebook statuses or ‘liking’ the more positive ones. I could have done more. I could have sent actual messages. I could have called. I could have sent her a care package from Israel to cheer her up. I did none of that. Now I cannot look at her Facebook page without wanting to cry, or actually crying. Because, you know, that is so helpful.
Anyway, the net result of all of this is that I have spent the last week in a state of emotional crisis with the overall theme being “maybe I made a mistake in leaving the States and maybe I should move back”. Because, if I were in the States, I could date non-Jews and then get married because Jewish guys clearly do not want me so I need to be somewhere with more of a mix so as to ensure success. Whereas if stay here I will stay alone for the rest of my life. Which means my life will have been wasted. My friends have been quick to point out the myriad holes in this theory: breathtakingly faulty logic, I love Israel, I have a good life here including good friends and a good job, my love life or lack of same is not the sole measurement of my success or lack of same, the US economy’s current place in the toilet, I am un-insurable in the States, relative vegetable quality, etc. At this point, I am coming around to their point of view. The vegetable argument is a strong one, as is the fact that seeing how I get horribly homesick for Israel if I am away for more than ten days actually moving to another country would probably be a spectacularly bad idea. So while I am still making vaguely threatening noises about moving to Los Angeles (do not ask me how that city got into my head—I have no clue) or AT LEAST Tel Aviv, I know that I am staying in Israel.
So now I am moving over to emotional crisis-stage two which is, if no less self-centered, at least a bit more conventional. What does death do, but to remind us of our mortality? I am 41 years old. What have I done so far? What could have I have done, had I focused and used my time wisely? What percentage of my life have I squandered? I dream of being a writing a book. I dream of writing many books. How many books could I have published so far had I been writing instead of mindlessly surfing the internet? Or writing instead of working 12 hour days? How many years have I promised myself to stop working crazy hours? I look at old pictures. I question previous decisions. I remind myself of every opportunity I have squandered, in every area of my life. If I had just stuck to that diet, I would be thin now. That nice guy in ulpan—if I had ignored the fact that he had a girlfriend in Hungary, maybe I would be married now. I promise myself that this will change. Everything will change. Maybe not this week, of course, this week being my week to be in a funk. But next week, for sure. I remind myself just how long it has been since I threw a public temper tantrum. How long it has been since I quit smoking. How long it has been that I have friends. How long it has been that I am seen as normal. You see, Gila, you can change.
The worst part? This will pass. As much as I am panicked now—ohmyGodlifeisshortandIhavenotdonewhatIwanttodosoImuststarttoday—the panic will pass. I will go back to my regularly scheduled procrastination. I will go back to my weekly passes over my 10 year plan, in which I journal my progress, noting little to no progress but somehow always justifying it. I will go back to my excuses. I will still tear up if I look at Angela’s Facebook page, but the urgency will have faded to a ghost. That scares me more than anything. Yes, you can change, but only if you do so in time. Eventually, you run out of time and you run out of chances. If I do not have the feeling of urgency to drive me, what will?
But before it passes, and while I still feel it, Angela, thank you for being a friend. I will miss you. The world is a better place for your having been here and a poorer place in your absence.