When reflecting on the past decade, most of us will consider the Twin Towers, the recession, Obama, wars, and terrorism as important events of the nought ('00-'09) years. To me, though, the real change in our lives has been the reality show. Talent shows have been around forever, but the reality show that promotes everything from finding a husband to cooking a gourmet meal is new and unique to our times. Everyone seems to need their "15 minutes," but it would appear that they will stop at nothing to get the full half-hour. Is it part of the human condition to constantly be seeking drama in our lives and then need millions to recognize you and the drama you have created?
As much as I have been witness to all these world events, my decade was mostly affected by what happened within my own little world; my own small home. More than anything else, the last 10 years have been about moves and children. All of these moves have happened within Israel - not especially dramatic, moving 20 minutes eastward every few years - but at this rate, in about four years' time we will be in Amman. Now that would be noteworthy. The truth is, at times I seek drama as much as the next contestant on Survivor. I'm convinced that even if there was no cash reward, people would still volunteer to participate. It is all about fame and recognition.
Perhaps the only way to instill drama in my life is through moving home or adding another baby to the mix. At least I have spared myself the ungratifying task of looking for fame or notoriety. Once I had given up the need for drama and the elusive search for fame, I realized that I would have to seek relief from these emotions elsewhere, and nothing fits the bill like a holiday movie. Nothing can run me through the whole gamut of emotions quicker than a good Christmas movie, from the first scene to the final rendition of "Silent Night" as the credits roll.
As much as I joke, there is little drama in my life. Perhaps from the outside it may seem different, but the truth is that moving, though difficult physically and often emotionally, is rarely dramatic, and my children have added only joy to our household. So I live vicariously though movies, books and TV.
The set-up for a holiday movie involves removing the main character from his home surroundings for a time and placing him in an entirely new situation, by adding either a new character or a new setting and then, for a time (this is when you bite your nails or, in my case, finish the popcorn), the new character or place is removed. This makes the characters reevaluate their situation, and they often realize that either they are in love or in lust and at times in hate. The movie, or at least the ones I come back to, end with a much-anticipated, heart-fluttering kiss. By the way, the reason I think that sequels tend not to work is that they shatter the illusion of happily ever after and try to create a feeling of "happily ever after, after all."
But what about our small lives? Do we create events to inject a sense of excitement into our lives? Is that why we need travel, vacations, speeding, picking fights, ignoring other people's feelings? Do we emulate the media around us?
Recently, we had a family stay with us for Shabbat. The couple, both bright and intelligent people, spent most of the time bickering. Nothing serious, just a constant back and forth of nagging, followed by a patent attempt to ignore the nagging. At first, it was amusing; then, after a few hours it got irritating, and then with time it got worrying. Were they truly unhappy? Is this the way they always talk to each other? Is there an end in sight? If so, I'm not sure I want to be there for the make-up kiss, and definitely not for the slamming of doors if the whole kiss scenario doesn't work out. Are they mimicking something they saw on TV? Because this isn't a scene from Everybody Loves Raymond, and I can't script a happy ending.
I started thinking: How does a relationship work if it is constantly beleaguered in such a way? How do you get back to each other at the end of the day? Is it like one of my movies? Something life-changing needs to happen for you to realize how good you got it. I wish for the couple no drama. Just realizations.
Seeing as I was getting so analytical, I started thinking about my own 10-year retrospective: of terrorism and war, of communities being built and houses being destroyed, of fame and infamy. And I knew that the common thread was the people; that every one of these stories involved real people whose lives had been altered by such events, sometimes for the better, most times for the worse.
As I lamented my life on the sidelines, instead of feeling disillusion and despondency, for the first time I felt relief. I'm starting to learn - and this, I believe, comes with age and a very healthy dose of common sense - that I don't need to inject drama into my life to have a full and rewarding experience. That the dream, the American Dream and now the Israeli Dream, was to live a comfortable, quiet life where nothing major ever happened, where recession and tragedy didn't unbalance your life. People, the ordinary ones like me, didn't seek the limelight or to be the center of attention.
Now that 10 years of my quiet life have passed, where I have collected news stories but thankfully not lived them, I am grateful for our tranquility, our ability to differentiate between artificially created drama and the real drama in our lives. I hope that the next 10 years will be as quiet in my home as the last 10.