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The Fuzzy In-Between

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BEV SPRITZER FOR THE CATCH [SUBSTACK] PUBLISHED MAY 24, 2024

Write about what you know, they always tell you. Write about your lived experience.

 

So, here we go.

 

I am in a constant state of oscillation between anger and grief, and the fuzzy space in between.

Just when I think I might move past the grief pre-set, I’m violently thrown back again into anger by the laws of physics, a sentient pendulum pulled between two places. Grief and anger. Past and present. Here and there.

 

To begin with, I wouldn’t even be here were it not for horrific circumstances. Both my father’s parents had full families before the Holocaust. They met in a German displaced persons camp after the war, and had my aunt, and later, my dad. From profound loss, they found beauty and joy.

 

They began again.

 

Which brings us to my current lived experience -- as a Jewish woman in Toronto with two small daughters who are mercifully far too young to understand or even register at all what’s going on, not just in Israel, but right here at home.

 

They have no idea how often I silently scream myself into an invisible forcefield, shielding them from both the world and the despair I feel at its hands. My family has been through this before, I think to myself. It can’t happen again. We need to keep going.

 

And so I stretch and bend myself beyond recognition, contorting my body, my words, my entire energy field, to obscure the unimaginable grief of knowing how little Jewish lives seem to matter right now to the international community at large, to the ugly, divisive monolith that social media has become, and, far more devastatingly, to those whose beautiful souls I once thought were kindred, whose presence I now find myself mourning.

 

New October 7th footage was released the other day. Five teenaged girls, bloodied and handcuffed. How can I explain the profound sadness and anger I feel for women I have never met, children like mine, innocent lives obliterated by rubble or terror tunnels, in a land far, far away? And how in the world can I adequately describe how intertwined our lives are with theirs?

 

The unbearable heaviness of grief creeps out, often in the form of tears.

 

Latent rage finds ways to escape through the cracks as well, as I realize my imaginary protective forcefield will never create a perfect seal.

 

I snap at my daughters, but I don’t mean to. I’m sorry, I tell them. I’m not angry at you.

 

But I can’t bear to tell them I’m angry at the world – because then they’ll know there is something imperfect about the beautiful life I want for them.

 

How can I explain to them that while yes, you do look more or less like most people, there are those who will think you are not white enough, and others still, who consider you too white to feel the pain of otherness?

 

That they, too, wouldn’t be here were it not for our mangled family tree, with limbs lopped off by those who thought we didn’t deserve to exist?

 

But the thing about trees is, when you cut off an active stem, it flowers elsewhere in the earth, wherever it lands. My ancestors have been doing this for thousands of years. They planted new roots and continued to flourish, bringing their customs and culture along with them wherever they went, never forgetting where they came from.

 

Generations later, synagogue windows shatter in Toronto. There are calls for violence. My husband and I have separately removed blatantly antisemitic signage from posts near our home. I carry a sharpie on my person at all times, just in case I need to cross out any hateful graffiti.

 

Jewish people are physically blocked and intimidated out of entering places of learning, places of work, places of worship. Stopped on the street and made to answer for the decisions of the Israeli government. As though we’re all military analysts. As though anybody should be put on trial for the actions of a government, let alone one that’s not even theirs.

 

Imagine this scenario, this current lived experience, swapped out for a different minority.

Imagine how loud the world would shout!

But there is silence.

 

Something was funny the other day and I caught myself laughing.

Am I allowed to laugh?

 

My daughter shows me tulips on our walk home, brightly saturated petals that have yawned into their final, majestic form before they fall for the season.

 

Are the tulips yawning? Or are they screaming?

 

“Aren’t they beautiful, mummy?”And for the first time in many months, I feel myself oscillate ever-so-slightly beyond my pre-programmed grief setting, into a different fuzzy in-between place -- one where tears can also mean joy.

 

“They really are,” I say.

And I mean it with my whole being.

 

This is how we move forward.

We keep planting roots. Putting good out into the world. Growing things. Raising good people. We allow ourselves to laugh when something is funny, to marvel at the simple beauty of a screaming tulip, to let ourselves to experience joy.

 

Which is, of course, the ultimate forcefield.

To be proudly, happily Jewish is an act of resistance.

To choose joy and wonder in the face of grief and destruction.

We have to.

It’s how we survive.

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