November 2009


“I’d also like to read about your life and thoughts in general,” says Erika.

“Are you able to say exactly what you want from others when you write?” asks Mapelba on her blog. “Money? How much? A compliment? What would that compliment be?”

“I want to be understood,” I reply. “I want people to stop judging me by their interpretation of what they see and discover the reality behind it. I want money, too. And compliments. But most of all I want to be understood.”

So here is an excerpt from my life. Although I’m worried you won’t understand it.

I have lived in Israel for most of my life, but I arrived as an adult. I’ve acquired a fairly good grasp of the language, but my accent tells all but a few other non-native speakers that my native tongue is English, even if they assume that I come from the US.

The other day I had to make a phone call. And here’s the first thing you probably won’t understand: phone calls are problematic. I worry about them beforehand, wonder whether I could substitute an email. Sometimes they turn out to be OK, other times they don’t.

Anyway, I phoned, said what I had to say and listened to the reply. Everything was going fine until I requested clarification about something he’d said. It wasn’t that I hadn’t understood any word of his Hebrew, just that I wanted him to explain something further. At this point he, a native Hebrew speaker, switched to English. I listened with mounting anger and kept quiet. The only thing I said was “all right” (in Hebrew). I wanted to tell him to stop talking in English, but didn’t think I could manage that without sounding angry, and that wouldn’t be fair to him because he obviously thought he was helping me.

This scenario has happened to me many times. Each time it infuriates me. I want to shout at the person who does this to me, “Just because I’m quiet, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid!” But it wouldn’t be appropriate.

So there it is. My life and thoughts. Does anyone understand?

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Sometimes, you begin to read a blog post and you know what your next post is going to be about. I just read Justin Dixon’s post: How to Find Your Message and Stand Out. In it, he writes:

Your message is the story that you tell people about your own life and theirs. It is a consistent message and it is your brand, and without a strong message your blog is going to just end up being a raindrop lost in the ocean.

I don’t need to find my message. I know it:

Many people, all over the world, suffer from social anxiety. If you’re not one of them, they need your help. They need support to break out of their walls, because it’s an extremely difficult process. You may not understand why it’s difficult. Take it from me; it is.

And another, related, message:

In most cases, social anxiety doesn’t need to happen. If people noticed the signs in time, that wall would never need to become so thick and strong.

That paves the way for at least two future blog posts:

  1. What you can do to help.
  2. The signs that should be addressed before they lead to something worse.

The magazine of my university college arrived yesterday. My son can’t understand why I want to read about the place where I studied for just three years so many years ago. But I am interested. I like to read about current activities at the college, and about alumni and how they’ve fared since leaving the college. I also glance at the “In memoriam” section and was saddened this time to recognize two names: one who lectured me although he wasn’t much older than I and one who studied with me. The section also included some who had only just completed their studies.

Until recently, all those of my generation in my family were still alive. Sadly, three first cousins have since passed away.

Apart from feelings for the people whose lives were cut off, this also reminds me that time doesn’t stop. It’s not enough to have goals; they have to be fulfilled.

At the end of this post is an offer you might want to accept.

If you’ve been following the poignant saga of my quest to receive some chocolate, you’ll know that I submitted two entries to Nicola Morgan’s Hotel Chocolat Halloween Competition and waited patiently for the results (while trying to decide between the two people competing to be my nominees, only to find that I hadn’t won, although I did get very close.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Nearly a month ago, a lovely lady called Teresa Stenson offered to do this thing that some people call, “Pay it forward.” Teresa called that a painful expression and I tend to agree. She called it a “Random act of kindness,” which sounds better.

So, for a change, I put aside all doubts and put my name down to receive something from Teresa, and today I discovered a little package in our letterHotel Chocolate Box box. Opening it, I found a box of four chocolates from Hotel Chocolat – the very same Hotel Chocolat that provided the prizes for that competition. This was better than winning the prize, because Hotel Chocolat wouldn’t have sent the chocolate out of the UK, but Teresa did. She also sent a beautiful card with a personal message on it.

I rushed up to my computer (with the chocolates of course – I couldn’t let them out of my sight), thanked Teresa while keeping one eye on the chocolates, and began sampling the chocolates. Chocolate brownie, butterscotch ganache with shortbread biscuit, Amarena cherry suspended in Amaretto buttercream and praline with crispy pancake. Each of them was soft, creamy, and delicious. And they came at a great time for me, soon after my first publication.

Thank you, Teresa, for that lovely act of kindness.

And now for my part. This is how it works: the first three people who comment on here will receive something lovely from me. Each of them has to promise to send something lovely to three other people – not necessarily via a blog. That’s all. So who are those three people going to be? Come on – don’t be shy. I wasn’t.

This post was inspired by Lauren Becker.That's me

You know how you read a description of someone and you think, “This could be me!” It hasn’t happened to me often. Generally, characters in novels aren’t like me and people like me don’t get much attention. Three sources stand out for me.

The first is the first description I found of social anxiety, back in 2002. It’s still there on the site, where they still use the term social phobia:

WHAT IS SOCIAL PHOBIA?
Social phobia is a persistent fear of doing something embarrassing or humiliating which interferes with both personal and professional lives. People with social phobia think that other people judge them negatively. This fear may reflect a sense of being inferior, different, or unacceptable, and it goes with assumptions such as thinking that “if people knew what you were really like, then they would reject you”.

There’s more on the site. When I first read it, I was amazed that even one more person could have similar thoughts and behave in a similar way, let alone “between 3 and 13% of the population”.

I’m not a fan of Jodi Picoult. In fact I’ve only read one of her books, but that one book, Nineteen Minutes, kept me riveted because of the central character, here described by an expert trying to claim he was suffering from PTSD:

A child who suffers from PTSD has made unsuccessful attempts to get help, and as the victimization continues, he stops asking for it. He withdraws socially, because he’s never quite sure when interaction is going to lead to another incident of bullying….

Different people have different responses to stress. In Peter’s case, I saw an extreme emotional vulnerability, which, in fact, was the reason he was teased. Peter didn’t play by the codes of boys. He wasn’t a big athlete. He wasn’t tough. He was sensitive. And difference is not always respected – particularly when you’re a teenager. Adolescence is about fitting in, not standing out.

The last quote is by Etgar Keret in his story: The Son of the Head of the Mossad. I admire Keret for his simple language and complicated ideas:

Ehud was tall and strong and was always quiet. Lots of people thought that Ehud was quiet because he was stupid. That wasn’t true. He may not have been the smartest kid on the block, but he was no moron either.

Have you been described by chance?

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