The Thankful Project: Day 4

Monday, November 4, 2013

Welcome to November 4th and the continuing adventures in gratitude known as The Thankful Project! It's been pretty nice to focus on the positive things, especially when I've been under so much stress lately. My joint pain has been worse than it was for the past few weeks, which was disheartening. I started the methotrexate at the end of August and my pain had practically evaporated over 6 or 7 weeks. Now it's kind of back, but I am hoping that it's due to the stress and lack of sleep and not a flare or disease progression. I really hope that at the very worst, I'll have to go up on the methotrexate dosage, but I really don't want to add a biologic medication. We shall see.

Classes have been kicking my butt, and the next four weeks aren't going to be any easier. It's going to be a very busy end-of-semester:

11/7 - Histology Quiz 2
11/16 - Unknown Organism Lab Report due
11/23 - Microbiology Lab Exam 2
12/2 - Scholarly paper for immunology due
12/6 - Microbiology Lecture Exam 3
12/16 - Immunology Final
12/19 - Histology Final

And then I will collapse into a pile.

Anyway, between school, work, med school anxiety, a million other things rolling around in my brain, and not feeling 100%, it's been an adventure in staying upright. This too shall pass.

For now, Day 4!

Day 4: An experience

This was (kind of) an easy one. An experience that I will never forget, for which I am incredibly grateful, is my trip to Israel in 2011. I traveled to Israel with URJ-Kesher as part of a Taglit Birthright Israel trip. It was the August before I officially converted and it was an amazing, moving, spiritual, beautiful experience.

I almost didn't go. Two days before the trip, I was terrified. The farthest I had traveled was Cancun and the Bahamas, both of which barely count as being "out of the country" in my book. I didn't know anyone else going on the trip. I don't really like flying, and it would be the longest flight I would have ever taken. Also, I'm not very adventurous (in case you didn't know that already). I don't like being uncomfortable, I don't like being too hot or too cold, I don't deal well with environmental adversity, I am not an adventurous eater... traveling to a foreign land wasn't really on the top of my list of things to do. And I barely felt Jewish anyway, so I was worried that everyone would think I was big weirdo, besides. I'd been to a handful of services, didn't speak or write a word of Hebrew, and barely knew any of the prayers. I was terrified.

And yet, I decided to go. I heard my Mom-Mom in my head saying, "You can be afraid and you can do it anyway." I adopted that as my mantra, decided that I probably wasn't going to die if I had to hike somewhere or eat weird food or not shower for a few days. I packed my bag (and some sedatives) and Ken dropped me off at JFK. I freaked out a little, then I collected myself and walked into the airport to find a group of 40 people I didn't know (and hoped it was the right 40 strangers). It was, and in what I can only describe as "unreasonably fast", these strangers became friends. Maybe that's what happens when you fly 14 hours to a foreign country and are so jet-lagged you can barely stand up. Who knows? What did happen was this:

- I rode a camel
- I slept in the desert after staying up for most of the night looking at stars like I had never seen them before in my life
- I ate food I couldn't identify
- I bawled my eyes out at Yad Vashem
- I saw memorials to bombed buses and the security fence/apartheid wall (depending on what you'd like to call it)
- I bought a beautiful tallis in Old Jerusalem
- I hiked Masada at dawn and didn't die (although at times, it was debatable)
- I hiked Ein Gedi and swam in a water fall
- I floated in the Dead Sea and rolled around in Dead Sea mud
- I got to have a "Bat Mitzvah" with others in our group who had never had one
- I swam in the Mediterranean
- I kayaked down the Jordan and didn't die (I realize that most of my activities were followed by me saying, "Hey, I didn't die!" like it was some major surprise, haha.)
- I spent 10 days with 40 strangers (many of whom were obnoxious) and I didn't commit any felonies
- I realized that I wanted to learn Hebrew
- I met Tovah, who is one of the coolest people  and whom I think will be a part of my life forever
- I felt more spiritual and closer to God than I had in years

Going to Israel and traveling by "myself" gave me courage to know that I could do it again if I wanted to... which I don't think I do, but it's nice to know that I can. It's nice to know that yes, you can be afraid and you can do it anyway, even if "it" is kayaking down a river, or hiking a giant mountain, or eating whatever it is in that bowl that looks vaguely like food. It made me realize that I had made the right choice in converting to Judaism, and that I had found my spiritual home. Thanks, Israel, for everything.

Masada at sunrise

Exhausted, but amazed

What's an experience you're thankful for? Leave it in the comments!

- A

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