A big girl in a little bubble

(This was originally posted on my Jerusalem Post blog, Israeli in Progress)
My husband and I often laugh that we really enjoy the little bubble we’ve created for ourselves here in Israel.

We live on a small kibbutz in the North. We have a 20 minute drive to the nearest supermarket, and a 45 minute drive to the nearest shopping mall. That might be off-putting to most; and admittedly it’s sometimes off-putting to us. But placing ourselves at a great distance from crowds and commercialism forces us to live a more simple life. We have less decisions to make, less traffic to navigate, less people to growl at.

We’ve noticed that “The Bubble,” as we call it, keeps us relatively safe from the stresses of modern family life. The stressors I’m referring to include mainly getting in and out of cars, weaving in and out of traffic, suffering the impacts of noise pollution, air pollution, and people pollution.

Instead of packing ourselves in and out of our cars multiple times a day, or boarding busses or trains; we walk our two little kids to preschool in the morning and our oldest son walks himself to a bus stop on our street.

When we get together with friends for playdates or social outings, it’s typically at our house or theirs. And we walk there. We hardly ever eat out. We hardly ever go out, to be honest. I work 20 minutes from the house and my husband works mostly from home. Our most spontaneous and adventurous day is typically Saturday, when we might hop in the car for a drive up to the Golan to hike, explore ancient ruins in the Galilee, or spend Shabbat with my in-laws who live 20 minutes away.

Some would call our simple life boring. But we call it easy. And easy translates for us as good.

This is not to say that everything about our life here is easy, but we’ve successfully managed to eliminate a lot of the every-day life stressors that we felt while living in New Jersey, without adding too many new ones to the mix.

(If you read my blog, you know the short list of Israel-related stressors includes:

1. Too many nuts here; 2. Rockets sometimes fall nearby; and 3. Hebrew is hard.)

Yes, our little Israeli bubble is nice. Our Bubble is quiet. Our Bubble is fairly uncomplicated.

But, it’s still a bubble, of course, which makes it a world contained within itself. There is a world, however, that still exists outside of it.  And in this world lives my extended family, my friends, and my colleagues.

So unless I plan on completely walking away from modern life, which my husband tells me I can’t, it’s important to exit the Bubble every now and again, as scary as that can be.

After ten years of American suburban life, I learned that if you don’t, you undoubtedly lose movement in your “brave muscle,” the one that keeps your inner scaredy cat in check.

In the States, this fear to leave your safe little bubble is sometimes a side effect of Suburban Malaise – when you move out from the City to the suburbs and your life becomes a bit too predictable; a bit too mundane; a bit too regimented and conformed. I imagine there are some people who also experience Kibbutz Malaise, a depression stemming from being away from all that city excitement when you move up North.

But not me. Here in my little Israeli Bubble, with its cozyness and simplicity, I risk suffering from Kibbutz Contentment.  The condition stems not from being stuck, but rather, not wanting to ever leave.

When you suffer Kibbutz Contentment and you have a pressing need to venture out from your bubble, you find yourself fretting for days beforehand. You scour Google maps, plot your routes in advance, and, if you have rusty Hebrew, write down all the words you will need in your own handmade little pocket dictionary.

When you suffer Kibbutz Contentment you avoid not only planes, trains and automobiles, but platforms, lines, and crowds. Sometimes you are brave enough for parking garages or malls, but never big sales and only during the week and mid-day hours.

When you suffer Kibbutz Contentment, you’re often worried equally at the idea of being alone in the city and being around too many people. Taxi drivers are your enemies, as are cashiers, waitresses, and homeless people. Why? Because they all want to talk to you.

I was in Tel Aviv at least five times in the past month for work, and all five times I experienced anxiety as I prepared to head out of The Bubble. But I have to say, I worked my Brave Muscle and it came out the other side achy, yet stronger.

I rode the train. I’ve even switched trains… three times! I bought multiple tickets. I spoke (in Hebrew) to all my “enemies” — the taxi drivers, the waitresses, and the clerks — and even the sophisticated Tel Avivians I had to conduct meetings with.

I was courted at fancy schmancy agencies and conference centers; sipped espresso in cafes; and pushed my way in and out of ticket lines. Twice this week, I drove Cvish HaHof, the beach highway to Tel Aviv from the North, as well as the super-highway, Cvish 6. I drove alone and pumped my own gas; which isn’t as easy as you would think considering all the instructions are in Hebrew.

After a long week of working my Brave Muscle, I returned home from work last night as exhausted as I would have coming home from an extreme workout at the gym. But I smiled as I drove through the yellow gate that separates my Bubble from the rest of the world.“Aizeh Bogeret,” I said to myself.What a big girl you are.

And the hugs and kisses and big glass of red wine that awaited me as I walked into the door of my bubble within a  bubble were all sweeter for having missed them.

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