What It’s Like to be Hearing Impaired for those who aren’t
by Gina Levin
It’s an invisible disability
No one sees my hearing aid
easily camouflaged by my hair
No one sees that I don’t have normal ears
It’s called bilateral microtia
easily camouflaged by my hair
People don’t see that I lip read
and live life on a 5 second delay
as my brain fills in the blanks
when you speak to me
and I miss some of your words
I choose when to tell you
Perhaps I need your help
To repeat yourself, but please
don’t say never mind
because I hear you’re not worth my time
I choose to tell you
so you won’t think I’m rude
When I don’t say hi back
so you won’t think I’m stupid
Because I answered a question you did not ask
Now, I don’t choose
I lead with telling you
even though you don’t know me yet
and know that I’m smart
that I’m nice
that I’m normal
Now I lead with telling you
Because the mask that saves our lives
in this pandemic
The mask we have to wear
if we care about people
muffles your sounds so I can’t understand you
covers your mouth so I can’t read your lips
breaks my heart
Because I don’t get to choose anymore
and you may only see my disability
and not me
You may not see the irony
that my gift as a social worker
is my ability to listen and hear
I don’t get to choose
And now I’m the one
who is invisible
Because all you see is my disability
What It’s Like to be a Jewish Indian Mix
(for those of you who aren’t)
by Kalyaan Levy
Danger everywhere I see
News seems like a devil
Never really wanted this
I just want to shut it all out
My race does not define me but lots see it that way
Why, I say why?
But just remember
It will end
What It’s Like to Be an Indian-Jewish Dyke
(for those of you who aren’t)
by Karishma Levy
To those who are wondering, I am an Indian-Jewish Dyke.
To the people I met in summer camp when I was 10. I am a woman, not a man. I should be able to go into the women’s bathroom. Not pushed out. Just because of how I dress. Just because of who I am.
To the men on the streets of Philly, who yelled “Fag!” while I was wearing a pride sweatshirt. I really appreciate it. It first gave me self doubt…But then I realized Yes…I am a “Fag” and I am proud to be a “Fag!” And you shouting it is not going to change who I am.
And to the past “friends” of my life. When I came out to you I was just so nervous. And when you became toxic and unaccepting. I realized that was a sign that I didn’t need people who brought me down just because of who I am.
But to the small group of friends that I have right now. I hope you stay and accept yours truly the
What It’s Like To Be Bi
(for those of you who aren’t)
by Kavita Goyal(inspired by Patricia Smith)
- It’s being constantly unsure of yourself.
- Who you are, where you belong.
- It’s waking up one day and finding yourself in a new place
- Not sure of the reasons or the forces that brought you there.
- It’s being confused or at least confusing to everyone else
- Cause you don’t fit neatly into their boxes.
- It’s being bilingual so you don’t even remember
- Learning either of your languages.
- It’s being binational when your parents, your dad anyway, decide
- It’s time to up and move from the only place you’ve ever known.
- It’s being bicultural when you’re codeswitching
- From school to home and not even noticing it.
- It’s being bisexual suddenly when you have a proposition
- From your best friend, and realize you’re interested.
- It’s being bifaith when you start attending services
- With high school friends who seem to know who they are.
- It’s also hating the word Bi cause it affirms a Binary
- Which you don’t believe in.
- It’s being unable to explain yourself
- In any words that anyone around you understands.
- When your parents feel betrayed by you
- For abandoning your culture and your faith.
- When straight friends drop you cause
- You don’t fit anymore.
- And decades later gay friends drop you cause
- They never really believed bisexulaity was a real thing anyway.
- When you visit your family in India
- Who make fun of you for your American accent.
- And you come home to school kids and teachers
- Who make fun of your Indian one.
- When your Indian-American friends should be able to relate
- But are trying too hard to find their own mixed up identity.
- And anyway you’re not femme enough to fit in
- With the straight Indian girls.
- Or butch enough to fit in with the gay ones.
Or homely enough to date the good Indian boys.
Or hip enough to date the cool Indian girls.
- And then you start your own family,
- Determined to do right by the next generation,
- Helping them to see all the sides.
- Sharing with them
- Ways of life.
- And still, at 53 you’re told…
- You’re not gay enough
- You’re not straight enough
- You’re not Hindu enough
- You’re not Jewish enough
- You’re just 1.5
- Not DCBA enough
- Not ABCD enough
But knowing all along,
Cause I can still see all the sides,
- That I am enough.
What it’s Like to be in Recovery
by Jason Levin
it’s growing up in a house alone except for the golden retriever
it’s finding weed and women at age 15
it’s listening to Mac Miller and thinking you could be him
it’s continuing to smoke when it almost cost you your life
it’s quitting drugs after nearly losing your life and finding recovery,
it’s feeling more at home in church basements than at synagogue,
it’s getting back into college and living in a recovery house and being the only Jewish guy there,
it’s being dependent on 5 types of pills to not go crazy,
it’s being the only addict who has an IRA and 10 grand left from his Bar Mitzvah,
it’s being a workaholic like your parents but not dropping the 60 bucks on Jdate,
it’s being an egomaniac with an inferiority complex,
it’s falling in love again, or is it lust, I still don’t know.
- And still, at 53 you’re told…
What it’s Like to Raise a Daughter
by Dina Stonberg
What it’s like to raise a daughter…
What it’s like to raise a daughter…
is it different when you’re both Black or both White?
is it different when there is a biologic connection?
when she is Black and I am White,
there is so much pain.
I never see it the way she does.
She never sees it the way I do.
She calls me “some white lady”.
I pretend it doesn’t hurt –
but it stings.
It feels like red hot iron stinging my flesh.
I hear about how hard her life will be as a Black woman.
I want to keep her safe as long as I can.
But I cannot protect her –
even when I am with her.
Even when she is at school –
a place whose job it is to keep her safe.
They don’t see her as my perfect little girl.
They see her as a Black girl in need of discipline and taming.
What does it mean to raise a daughter?
For me, it is near daily pain and fear for the future when she is no longer little and cute and I cannot defend her in the world and help her make her way and smooth things out for her and make it all better with a hug and a smile. Each day she grows closer to that time when she will be out there – the fear keeps me up at night.
What It’s Like to be
by Miriam Stonberg
In the waster of the deep
I go to sleep.
I wonder why I slack
In all the easy drills
I can’t say my feelings
It is very difficult as you see,
my gender doesn’t matter,
Or the texture of My hair style,
I am, different,
Call it unique,
Whatever word you seek.
I am here today to correct my ways,
To show my real beauty and face.
What It’s Like to be a Gay Papa
(for those of you that aren’t)
by Josh Young
It’s constantly sharing your story and answering questions. It’s second-guessing every move you make and having constant self-doubt since your family doesn’t look like others. It’s navigating your other identities but knowing that everyone only sees this one. It’s balancing the needs, desires, stresses, and joys of a family that needs so much. It’s being aware of location, picking where we live and where we travel based on how others will view and treat us. It’s facing constant resistance since men aren’t supposed to be primary caregivers according to society. It’s a life filled with various acronyms like IEP, ADHD, PTO, LGBT yet not knowing which letter is most important. It’s hoping the moms accept you and the dads don’t avoid you. It’s balancing the masculine and feminine, old and young, parents and children, married and divorced. It’s giving everything and expecting nothing. It’s feeling like it will all come undone at any moment after spending so much time and energy keeping it all together. It’s making sure that you are building character for your children while balancing your own character. It’s providing a good life for your family while recognizing that being employed takes you away from the life you provide. It’s having hopes and dreams, wishing that normalcy may find me some time in the future.
What it’s like to be an Educator
(for those of you who aren’t)
by Heather Bickley
It’s being idealistic and believing that you can change the world, even when others tell you that you can’t. It’s believing that everyone can learn,
everyone has value,
everyone can make positive contributions.
It’s being a kid who liked to play with pens and notebooks, who loved the smell of a new book; and then becoming an adult who gets paid to play with your favorite toys. It’s having a positive outlet for your ADHD, your OCD, those quirks that are now assets.
Being an educator smells like fall and Lysol, it tastes like coffee and wine and snacks.
When it’s about being a teacher,
it’s about finding self-worth intrinsically and from your students because you sure aren’t going to get it from society.
But it isn’t always just about being a teacher. It’s about being a mom, a friend, a leader, a boss,
Being an educator is about being confident, and motivating,
and knowing how to speak and when to listen.
Being an educator is about knowing how to help people learn and continuously learning the skills to do it more effectively. It’s about being a lifelong learner.
It’s about finding ways to create spaces for others where they can feel safe and welcome.
It’s wanting to provide others with the tools to become agents of positive change, to become leaders,
to become who they want to be;
even when you don’t agree.
Being an educator is fulfilling when it’s building relationships. When it’s seeing people who you’ve impacted living amazing lives and doing amazing things.
But for me
being an educator is the best
when it’s being called
What it’s like to be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult,
(for those of you who haven’t).
by Heather Bickley
Being diagnosed with ADHD is validating.
It confirms that the feelings you’ve had for all those years are right.
That you can actually “feel” your nervous system,
and it is always on. That you can pay attention to three things at the same time and actually pay attention.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is being sad for the child that was told she was lazy, that she was not living up to her potential, and now knowing that she wasn’t given the opportunity to live up to her potential. Its grieving those missed opportunities.
Being diagnosed with ADHS as an adult is being grateful that you were not diagnosed until you were an adult because you learned skills and strategies to be successful. Without knowing that you actually needed them.
It makes ADHD a gift, not a challenge.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is finally understanding why you insist on having a backup, for everything;
why you write and rewrite to do lists, and send yourself fifteen emails a day, and rewrite your to do list fifteen times, and buy new planners every three months, and write poems that are longer than they are supposed to be.
It means that your calendar is as necessary as oxygen.
It’s chunking your workday into thirty-minute segments, setting up Hershey kiss rewards for sustained focus and finished tasks.
It’s knowing that it takes you about twenty minutes to ease into work or a project and preemptively telling people that their one-minute interruption will cost you twenty minutes of time.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is finally understanding why you’ve always had more than one job at a time and prefer it that way, why you like to have five plans in one day but then after a few of those days need an entire Saturday to sit and do nothing. Really, nothing.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is being strong enough to not listen to the stereotypes and judgements about your cognition. It’s being confident in who you are and knowing that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, that every trait, and condition, and label has strengths and weaknesses, it’s having a clear conviction that what others may see as a weakness you see as a strength.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is mourning the dreams of a little girl who wanted to be a supreme court justice and wondering what if.
Its questioning why so many teachers let you sit in the back of the room and read novels while they taught, content to let you pass with B’s and C’s when you had the ability to excel. It’s being angry that no one stepped in to do something to wonder about the disconnect.
But it’s also easy to move past the grief for the little girl because when you’re diagnosed as an adult its being a strong, confident, and independent adult who is happy with where they are and who they became.
It’s being infinitely annoyed and frustrated at people who use the term that describes your biology and chemistry as an adjective for behaviors they don’t like in themselves.
It’s rolling your eyes at everyone who says they understand, when they don’t. They really don’t. Being busy and being over committed is not having ADHD.
It is coming to know that you like your ADHD, you like how your brain works.
It’s being grateful that you actually do have the ability to multitask.
It’s being excited by what others would call over committed and having a hard time turning down more hobbies and responsibilities.
Its having insight to know your work patterns, your needs, your interests and living then to their fullest.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is really know yourself. Fully.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is being concerned for the children being diagnosed and told they have a disability and being given quick fixes instead of tools to maximize their gift.
Its spending an hour of your workday writing a poem instead of doing your job but knowing that you will end up doing your job later tonight, so it all works out.
It’s being grateful for a flexible work environment, medical marijuana, and self-knowledge.
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is finally understanding, getting answers you sometimes wish you had when you were younger, but maybe not because it’s also not just liking you and who you are but also liking who have become, being proud of what you’ve accomplished, and being grateful for what you have.
The university classroom, in a building with
white wood framing old brick and ivy curling up the walls,
is a thirty-minute drive from Roxbury, Massachusetts
but a cosmos away.
The teacher talks literature with future teachers
in his graduate school section, invites them to come help
with his other students, Roxbury teenagers, hopeful
to get to the new planet of college.
It’s evening drives from suburb to city,
three of us in my tiny white Mazda, whirring through the dusk,
it’s the unfamiliar growing familiar
in a Baptist church’s basement. Although these students have a dream,
many have stumbled. They pick themselves up and push on.
It’s being invited to their choir concert.
Only two of us can go, so it’s me and Sarah, a young blonde woman from Colorado,
we perhaps the only two white people in the cavernous church of hundreds
upstairs from the basement where we had tutored on spring evenings.
It’s May now, and sweltering – the ladies fan themselves, the men dab their foreheads.
We sit shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by the excited buzz before the concert begins.
It’s the singing that night, glorious song after song of praise to Jesus,
it’s hearing the claps rhythmic as the music swells,
it’s joining in the clapping and swaying side to side –
Jewish though I am, I rejoice for the kids, and besides,
The shoulders lean us together, side to side, no matter our faiths.
It’s the pastor on the stage, the conductor of this train of believers,
the conductor of the choir swaying behind him.
Sweat drips down his smiling dark face as he tells us
that what is coming is their signature song,
“Stand Up for Jesus.”
It’s hot and loud and beautiful and happy and hopeful.
They will make it through, they will go to college, they will be saved.
Upstairs in the balcony and down where we are in the pews,
it’s a crowd of hundreds packed in, while the kids hum and clap and sway,
and the pastor says Now people do things all the time just to be polite
even go to church
but in this song when these children sing
I want you to imagine Jesus is here and he’s talking to you
I need you to know that Jesus is here and he’s talking to you
the man points at us
and Jesus doesn’t want you to say you believe to please him
Jesus needs you to believe
Jesus needs you to mean every word you say
so when these children come to the line that sings
“Stand up for Jesus”
you will declare by standing that YOU are committing yourself
that you will live your life in honor and praise
of Jesus Christ risen as God and
And it’s being the one Jewish guy in the sixteenth row
and realizing that I can’t stand up for Jesus
and knowing that I, alone in that church of hundreds,
while the hundreds rose in the heat, and Sarah beside me rose in the heat,
and the shoulders next to me, against whom mine had nestled all evening,
would rise in the heat,
that I would stay in my seat.
I hope Jesus understood.
What It’s Like To Be A High Energy Person For Those Who Aren’t
by Donna Hendel
It’s having more time in my life than others do, letting me make friends, nurture friends, cook for friends … even making sure to socially distance meet with friends during the pandemic.
It’s having the energy to do something physical every day such as dancing, walking 10,000 steps every single day, swimming, but choosing maybe not clean my house as often as I should.
It’s making time to read and being in three book clubs and listening to a book in my car and having an audible book to with, but maybe choosing to read rather than cleaning my house.
It’s having time for self improvement and education, taking courses at the University of Delaware, confirmation Class and Hebrew teaching seminars.
It’s having time for volunteering by being involved in my synagogue and on the board of the Folk Dance Council.
It’s having plenty of energy left over for my family, which means Zoom parties and virtual games and Pity Parties … because they mean the most to me and they are LOVE.
What It’s Like to Create Images (for those who don’t)
by John Barr
Seeing something different that meets the eye
Watching the image grow in my mind
Harnessing the limits and going beyond
Translating my thoughts by merging the pixels
Digesting the results and sharing
Starting over and over to reach satisfaction
An audience of one, me
And then several
Acceptance and rejection
What it’s like to be a Reform Rabbi (for those who aren’t)
by Peter Rigler
It’s the ability to hold hands during joy and sorrow
Watching children grow and become
Missing some moments with your own children
Serving as a guardian of 3,000 years
Being welcomed and being stereotyped
Knowing you get to share the gift
Blessing, holding, lighting, coordinating, leading
Bringing laughter and joy to the room
Knowing you are only human and can’t control the weather or health.
Balancing what tradition says and the moment we are living in.
Opening doors to invite in
Knowing any Jew can do what I do, but I am the one who gets to do it!
What It’s Like to be a Jewish Mom of Adult Sons
(for those of you who aren’t)
by Emily Mendell
Its worry and joy and hope and fear all wrapped into a single minute
It’s answering their phone call on the first ring, even if it means being rude to whomever you are with not knowing if you should feel excitement or dread
Its embracing doing their laundry or making a sandwich, glad to feel needed again in that small moment
Its home, the car, or anywhere they are, even if it’s not next to you
It wondering about their friends and girlfriends, or maybe boyfriends
It’s raising eyebrows and fighting with your husband about how much lean in and out.
It’s praying that they will stay Jewish, but being mindful not to push, you are not going to be THAT Jewish mom
It’s sneaking into the living room to page through their bar mitzvah album, embarrassed when you are caught
Its deep sighs and sucking it up; it’s giving up, surrendering and every now and then picking a battle that you will probably lose
It’s torturing them by purposely using their vernacular incorrectly – “wanna spill some tea fellas?” – and bursting with happiness when they get the joke and laugh along with you
It’s thinking about their future when you might not be around to help
It’s helping too much and worrying about doing too little
It’s knowing that you will never be able to make them as happy as you could when they were little, and mourning the loss of that ability
It’s being on the sidelines when something needs fixing – and not being invited to play
It’s a new found appreciation for your mother-in-law who has always asked when are you coming to visit?
It’s wondering if you did it right, even knowing that you did your best
by Andrew Borson
Let me tell you… I have something to say.
I know I do. I know a lot. I read books, the analyses of others.
I try to see the lessons from one in the patterns of another. You can always
apply a model, a metaphor, an analytic frame from one to another.
Let me tell you… and sometimes I do.
I’ll hold back, try to read the room, then enter with an insight
so blinding it dazzles.
It comes out of my mouth weighing a hundred pounds, and falls to the floor.
I smile awkwardly, and agonize until someone rescues me by changing
I sometimes try to hold back. I’m not a teacher, but…
I try to show others a way to see… but who am I to do that?
Is it performance?
Am I looking for silent applause?
Or do I have a way of thinking worth expressing?
Like I said… a frustrated teacher.
What it’s like to be a hammock seeker, for people who are not.
by Jen Isayev
It is making a room of repose anywhere outside, between two trees.
It is reading and swaying.
It is listening to birds and watching whatever crosses the sky in your upward gazing view.
It is looking from below.
It is seeing the underneath of trees, the bottoms of leaves, the origin of branches.
It is spying on the birds and bees flitting and buzzing from branch to branch from leaf to leaf.
It is sleeping and swaying.
It is solitude in your neighborhood, your backyard.
It is noticing the air on your skin and swinging.
It is bundling in blankets and swinging.
It is solitude. It is joy with companions.
It is dappled sunlight.
It is wondering if I’m wasting my time and knowing it is never a waste of my time.
It is five minutes and it is five hours.
It is always the perfect place.
What it’s like to be a Leonard Cohen fan (for those who aren’t)
by Rob Graff
It’s seeing the song Hallelujah debased, which you loved long before Shrek made it famous, and years after you asked your Canadian sister-in-law to bring you the CD on which it was released because it wasn’t seen fit to release in the US.
It’s having the perfect words come to you to share and feeling a bit like a thief, a bit like a cultist, and a bit like the bringer of profound wisdom. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
It’s sitting on the lonely floor of a large closet during sophomore year of college and painstakingly learning the finger-picking to Suzanne in front of a lit candle.
It’s having beautiful poetry always in your head.
It’s marveling at the video of the 2012 New England PEN Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Awards where Salman Rushdie presents Leonard Cohen his award followed by Paul Simon awarding Chuck Berry, and hearing Leonard Cohen compare Roll Over Beethoven to Walt Whitman.
Finally it’s hearing him sing “Hineni, hineni; I’m ready, my lord” on his final album as he prepared for his death, the day before Donald Trump’s election.
What it’s like to be an abandoned child (for those who aren’t)
By William Stone
(September 22, 2020)
When I was young, five or six, I wandered off into the woods.
I wasn’t running away. I was just trying to have fun. I didn’t mean to get lost.
But I was. For many, many hours until the sky grew dark
and the search parties grew large.
My mother was besides herself, I am told. So was I.
I cried and cried and begged God to let me find home.
For a long time, I wondered if it was like that for dad.
Maybe he wasn’t trying to run away either.
Maybe he just got lost too.
But I am no longer young.
I am older now than he was when he wandered off into his own woods,
like Hansel and Gretel
but without the sensible crumbs of bread,
and without the yearning to be found.
I remember my woods –
the ragged bark of the trees,
the menacing croaks of frogs
and chilling cricket chirps,
and I can’t understand why anyone would willingly wander
away from home
I try to understand but I can’t.
I remember those woods, but I am distracted from my reverie
by a tug on my shirt sleeve.
I look down at my son
and hear laughter from the other room.
My wife and daughter are playing a game
and my son, a search party of one, has come to find me.
And I am happy to be found.
What It’s Like To Be Volunteer (in case you don’t)
by Jim Meyer
Ever wonder where the day went as you get into bed?
Ever wonder if you have control of your time?
Volunteering in areas you care about can cause the time to pass very quickly
– to leave you either wondering how time passed without you knowing OR
how you did so many things in the time you had.
Volunteering makes you feel part of something larger than you
– it makes you feel you achieved something larger than you could do yourself.
Volunteering binds you to a community or two or three or more.
Retiring gave me more time to volunteer.
What it’s like to be dependable (for those who aren’t)
by Arline Lieberman
It’s feeling as if I was always the one to count on
It’s feeling like I always needed a quiet place to organize my thoughts and prepare
And when I asked my father for a place at which to do this
He made me a desk from the vanity of my parents’ bedroom suite
And when I counseled students in another life,
It was trying to be always present for them, hearing what they really needed
And when I take minutes now in a committee meeting,
It’s hoping that the words communicate succinctly the kernel of each person’s thoughts
It’s also feeling disappointed when someone is not dependable
And trying to understand that it’s not easy for others
What It’s like to be alone (for those who aren’t)
by Bobbi Schoenstadt
I am alone in my condo by myself
Where I see all the beautiful things around me
…but I am by myself alone…
No one is with me to laugh, joke, cry…
hold my hand
I am alone
I walk from room to room hoping to see a familiar face,
Hear a familiar sound
Only seeing pictures of loved ones, but hear no one
I am alone
I read, paint, cook, phone, zoom and even facetime
But I am alone
I question the time this will be over
In my heart and through my prayers
I believe this will happen
I Am Alone