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Can We Earn Privilege?
Last night I had the absolute privilege.
What a funny word.
What a loaded word.
What a confusing concept.
More on that later.
I had the absolute PRIVILEGE of going out to dinner with my 3 sister in laws. My husband’s sister and 2 sisters- in-law.
I have them who I am extremely close to and I guess from what I hear, is pretty unusual for all 4 sisters in laws to get along. But on top of that, I have my 8 siblings! 5 sisters and 3 brothers, all of whom I can say I have a close relationship with.
This is not a mistake.
This was by design. One of my mothers MOST important missions in life was to make us close. “Take care of your siblings no matter what,” she would say. My sister above me, Sima, is just 1 year older than me and oh those fights we had were epic. We didn’t want to share lives. Friends. Clothing. Identities. She was always cooler than me. And also better than me. At everything. I guess I lived in her shadows.
But now, I can’t put words to how close we are.
Two peas in a pod. Polar opposites! Yet so similar. There is nothing like a friend who happens to be your sister. We may as well make up a different word to describe that relationship. And I sit and comfort my sister in law who has 2 boys in a row. Also total opposites. Also fighting for their own identity.
We sit and talk about our current lives.
About the absolute insanity of raising kids (today and let’s face it, always). We ponder life’s most important questions. How can 1 person hold space for all of our children’s needs ? How is it even possible with the never ending physical needs of EACH child and the emotional burden making us drown underwater as we sort of watch that unfold. What a phenomenon.
Again, I’m transported back to my own childhood.
Wondering everyday, why on earth my parents would OPT, would actually choose to have 9 children and rumor has it, my mother wanted more!!
Scratching my head each time I heard the “good” news, I wanted to hide. And there’s that polar opposite again, rearing its ugly head out, my sister sima reports how much she loved her childhood. She loved all the kids. The chaos. The noise. She loved it and I hated it.
Back to my night out with sisters in laws and many private conversations I am privileged to have about our children.
Wanting more. But why? Why would I after every ounce of me have been spit out and laid across the floor for each child to quite literally jump on squash and do it all again tomorrow.
And I am immediately pulled to the day my mother was buried.
Her brother eulogized her. “She lived her life exactly as she wanted.” A loving husband and 9 children and in law children surrounded her body as we said goodbye to it, so, so reluctantly but that’s what we did. We spoke about the eulogy later, all 8 siblings and I. That privilege again. We couldn’t help but recognize how true my uncle’s words were.
On Friday, on my trip to Teaneck for the weekend, The weekend we decided on making up for missing the actual day of Thanksgiving, I began listening to an audio book, Emotional Inheritance. This book was recommended on a popular foodie influencer page. She is not just a foodie influencer you should know. She woke up one morning to find her life unturned. Her husband at age 40 died suddenly. No warning or explanation. Left to raise 5 children alone. I follow her story because she gives me hope. So much hope my heart swells and continues to swell as I watch her from afar pick up the pieces of her life. Proudly getting remarried and allows us all to glean from her tremendous resilience and bravery.
Anyways, the book. Another disturbing book on the book shelves in my head.
Yet I can’t get away from them. The true stories. The therapists unraveling the themes they see with their clients. I’m hooked. I’m intrigued. I’m eager to learn. I LOVE her idea-mesearch. Referring to writing a dissertation that is about research but obviously overlaps with her own underlying issues, trials and tribulations. I am dreaming of the day I write my own book. My own story of being the 4th child in a family of nine. My complicated relationship with my mother and her sudden death. How this has shaped me. All while starting my own private practice to help my clients with their relationships with food and body image. So many stories to tell and glean from. So many thoughts percolating in my head.
I’m reminded of what we know as Jews but I guess we all need the reminder.
We have inherited our ancestors’ trauma and we now live it out. Sometimes we have no idea of it and sometimes we are brave and learn how to unpack that.
To me it is metaphysical and I can’t really delve into it right now because I need another few days or weeks to fully unpack it on my own. But it was something I needed to hear just then.
I contemplate so many life decisions.
Big decisions we have to make as we are “adulting.” So perplexed by the longing for more of life while drowning in everything right now. While trying to truly understand why my mother felt so rich with 9 children while she was so poor of everything else.
And then, it hits me.
It has hit me before but here it is again. Human beings are driven by so many things. Often on paper our behavior doesn’t “make sense.” I often repeat to myself “people don’t make sense.” Don’t get me wrong, I know we all THINK we make sense. But oftentimes we most certainly do not. Life really doesn’t make sense. We want it to SOOO badly.
But life doesn’t follow the script and it never has.
The Jewish life doesn’t make sense. According to “making sense,” we’d been killed time and time again. If not physically, then definitely psychologically.
But we stand here today. Strong.
I contemplate so many things about my family because I KNOW this is my legacy. My life’s purpose. Not for accolades which I certainly won’t get in this world. This world tells us to be selfish. This world asks us to fit in and not make too much trouble. This world asks us to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense.
I understand my mother and bond with her even though she isn’t alive for me to tell. We communicate differently now and I think that is making her happier and prouder today. I don’t always “make sense ” the choices people in my life make, but I want to try. Because we have all inherited trauma and we all act in a way that doesn’t make sense.
So yes I feel privileged but I hate that word sometimes because the world tells me I should feel bad for my privilege and I don’t understand other people’s lack of privilege. That can’t be true. Not as a jew. Not in this world. And not with all my inherited trauma. It’s here with me and I still stand.
I struggle to be a good parent everyday but that doesn’t mean I can’t. That doesn’t mean my children won’t survive. They will. Look at what we have all survived. Look where we have gone. I think I’m done drowning myself in guilt, shame and doubt. I will do everything I can and my children will get exactly what they need. Maybe when they are my age, they will see the world through my lens. But I won’t know for a long while. I’ll remember that people don’t make sense. I sometimes don’t make sense and neither will they. That is life. Real life.
That is the privilege that I’ve worked hard for and earned:)
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Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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