Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meshaneh Makom, Meshaneh Mazal

That's a Hebrew saying meaning, literally, one who changes his place, changes his luck. It's used when people move (change houses, cities, countries), or even when they make a change in their house, move furniture around, paint a wall, etc...

There's a lot of wisdom in Hebrew sayings. To me this one is evocative of the wandering Jew. I think its meaning is intuitively clear, although it's one of these pieces of "common wisdom" that is perhaps not all that common.

Meshaneh Makom Meshaneh Mazal is used very often in Hebrew, but the first time I really reflected on it was when I moved into my current house. The previous owner was an orthodox Jew with a goose bump-inducing way of making Jewish aphorisms come to life. We were talking about my recent and very difficult separation from my husband, and that's when she brought out this phrase. Suddenly its meaning became very clear to me.

It came back into my thoughts these past few weeks, when I finally made good on my promise to myself when I moved into this house: That this was an eight year deal, it was the place I would live while my kids were still at home and attending the local schools. Once they were grown, I was going to be moving to Santa Monica, to a smaller place, closer to the beach.

But as the time for the move came near, I started questioning myself. Do I really want to move? I have such a beautiful house. Can I really swing this financially? Is it necessary?...

What it took was my son, my little one, actually leaving for college. The day I returned from driving him up to Berkeley, I knew this was it. Time to move. Time to shake off a certain period of my life, and to move on to the next one. To move out of my suburban-looking neighbourhood to something more urban, more single, more alive.

The first few weeks of house hunting were a gradual adjustment of the way I viewed myself. Did I really need a house? Would an apartment do? Did I need three bedrooms? Would two be enough? Did I need two baths? Would one be enough?

And then, just as I was starting to adjust myself to the thought of a small apartment, a place where my kids would have to camp out in my office when they came to visit, I went to a friend's brunch and found out she was renting out her place. Not an apartment, not exactly a house either, but the first floor of a charming, somewhat run down 1904 home, just three blocks from the beach, right next to Ocean Park blvd, my favorite part of Santa Monica. Luck had fallen into my lap, just as I had felt it had when I found the beautiful house I'm living in today.

But back to that old Jewish saying: The day after I found my new place, I had a big passover dinner at my house, and we talked about the meaning of freedom. And one of the guests said that freedom was the ability to move. To move physically, to move out of bad relations, to move in our work, in our personal lives. His words resonated with me. And to me they also echoed that old Jewish saying - change your location, change your luck. That's how I feel about my move. A feeling of freedom, a feeling of new horizons, of new luck.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not With Food Stamps

I was in Utah this weekend and late at night stopped in at a convenience store to get some yogurt, or some relatively lowfat alternative to that carrot cake I'd be craving... Next to the stale donuts was a basket of fruit with a sign - "Food stamps cannot be used for the fruit".

At the counter I mentioned this to the cashier. "No problem, you can use them for chips, cookies, candy". My first thought, reflecting my disdain of the natives, was: "Well, another hick." But then I realized I was completely underestimating her. She was being cynical.

Death and Taxes...

I've avoided death so far. But taxes, unfortunately not.