I am not a morning person. When the alarm sounds, I roll toward my husband, attempting to hold him there, hostage to the world of sleep, hoping we can linger on in the realm of delicious dreams for a few minutes more. And yet, at least one weekday morning each week, I rise early and depart for synagogue.
Unless you’ve been living overseas, or under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the rare coincidence this autumn of Thanksgiving and Chanukah, and of creative ideas to celebrate it — sweet potato latkes; donuts filled with cranberry jelly or pumpkin cream; and, of course, “Menurkeys,” ceramic turkeys whose feathers hold Chanukah candles (the brainchild of our friend’s 9-year-old son, Asher Weintraub).
Stories of Jewish women trapped in dead-end marriages, held hostage by embittered husbands, always disturb me. Jewish law assigns the man the exclusive right to confer a divorce, and some men abuse that power, vengefully refusing to release unhappy spouses from the bonds of matrimony.
Like many women in midlife, Joy Ladin tenses up as she approaches a mirror. But upon seeing her reflection — a bob of wavy hair, a long skirt, a bold necklace — Joy feels grateful. For more than four decades, Joy lived as Jay, a woman trapped in a man’s body, a woman wearing a beard, a woman who could never don a dress without repercussions, a woman who was so distanced from her body that she felt “far away, or far below, or somewhere within,” the loving family with whom she lived. During these years, a fleeting glance at her face would traumatize her.
I distinctly remember the pleasures of being 23, of jogging through the parks of Tokyo, where I then lived, the frogs croaking and cicadas humming in the evening’s darkness, my body and soul invigorated by the endless possibilities that lay around the next bend, wherever that might be.
Perhaps it’s the madness of mid-life, or the doldrums of winter, or just plain bad luck, but I haven’t been enjoying 2013 so far. I’m sick of sickness. I’m worn out by worry. I’m besieged by bickering children. My patience has been worn to the thinnest of rags.