Note: If you want to respond to the content of this post, please post in the comments. Any emails sent to me privately on this topic will be posted in the comments section, with or without the author's permission. I'm trying to keep people's comments/feelings on this public so I don't drown in negativity and criticism that surely will arise, as this is a tenuous and potentially life-altering post.
Well, my banner gives a hint: I'm rebranding -- both the blog and myself. A lot of people (looking at you @Mottel) believe that people aren't brands, but other people (looking @jeffpulver here) believe that people are and can become brands. Whether I intended it or not, I am my brand and my brand is me. I'm Chaviva, the Kvetching Editor, and this blog is the face of that brand. Do I include every minute detail of my life here? No, gosh no. If I did, y'all would be overloaded and I'd end up looking like some narcissistic lunatic. That being said, I've always prided myself on honesty, forthrightness, and truth.
I was speaking with my therapist today, after several weeks of throwing things around in my head whether this post was going to happen. With that note up top there and with what I'm going to say, this post will serve as therapy for me, and I hope it will take the weight that I'm "hiding" something off my shoulders. I'm a firm believer that if you don't inform on your brand, someone else will, and that's how gossip and lashon hara begins.
I am a Jew. I don't fit in a box, and although I tried very hard after my Orthodox conversion to throw myself into the tidy box of Orthodoxy -- Get Married, Move to a Big Orthodox Community, Have Only Orthodox Friends, Dress the Part, Wear the Headcovering, Go to the Mikvah, Live and Breathe the Box of Orthodoxy -- it didn't work. My marriage failed, my life shook, and I uprooted myself to Denver where I now feel more like myself than I have in a good three years.
Slam Poetry. Music. Film. Writing. Smiling. Laughing. Feeling at peace in my own skin -- except, of course, when others send me emails or texts or chats telling me how I'm letting down the people who look to me the most as a beacon of conversion to Orthodox Judaism. I'm made to feel guilty for feeling happy.
And why am I happy? Why am I really happy? Because unexpectedly, in early November, while sitting at the local Starbucks (a shonda!) doing work, a fellow walked up to me and asked to sit down. While he stepped away, I fled. I was just divorced, I was pretty sure he wasn't Jewish, and I think he was hitting on me. Then, time and again I went into that Starbucks and we struck up a friendship. That friendship over movies and ridiculous YouTube videos and existentialism and family/emotional drama and our love of rodents and books and music and everything else led to now: I'm dating this fellow. His name is Taylor, and Taylor is not Jewish. Taylor's what he likes to call an agnostic-atheist, meaning that he respects everything that I believe but that he doesn't buy into any of it. Has it resulted in any contention? Not really, no. He leaves me to my Shabbat observance, recognizes my kosher-keeping, and the fact that we're both vegetarian (okay, so I eat meat when I go to @melschol's house) makes cooking for each other at my place a breeze. Right now, he's perfection for me. He makes me laugh, he makes me smile, he makes me feel okay being me.
Yes, I've taken to eating out at the two popular local vegetarian/vegan restaurants -- City O City and Watercourse. I can get my weird vegan kosher Daiya cheese, plenty of vegetables, and a bounty of gluten-free options in a city where the only kosher "restaurant" holds a monopoly on the kosher business and serves subpar food (want to open a kosher restaurant? sorry! it can't be anywhere near the one that exists -- va'ad rules). But guess who thinks it'd be cool to open a kosher vegetarian restaurant? Taylor. Go figure, eh?
What else should I put out there?
I've reconsidered having children, I've reconsidered marriage. The children thing has a lot to do with family things that are too private for me to detail here, and the marriage thing has a lot to do with, well, being married and it going so horribly.
Yes, I know what you're all thinking/saying: Chavi, you just went through a tumultuous time, this is to be expected, don't count anything out! Or perhaps, Chavi! Just go to Israel and study in seminary and figure out your Jewish self there! Oh I know, some of you are even thinking Chavi, you're rebounding! It'll all get better once you meet a nice Jewish boy.
And perhaps all of those point are valid, but I've heard them from every angle. Rationalize things all you want, but this is who I am right now and this is how I'm happy right now. The truth is, I don't think I ever fit into the clean Orthodox box I thought I did. I wanted to, I tried so hard, but the Orthodox I fell in love with and the Orthodoxy I practiced were two different things. It doesn't make my past posts any less valid or significant, and I hope people still read and learn from them. I'm a Jew. An underconstructionist, rebranding Jew.
I'm still kosher, I'm still shomer shabbos. I still believe firmly in everything that makes Judaism work and functional. Torah m'Sinai. The important thing is that I'm not letting myself stop. Some of you may think I'm regressing, pouring into the plight of intermarriage and diluting the Jewish pool. And you'll think what you will, and I'm okay with that. I've come to peace with it.
This is my derech. My derech to which HaShem is privy. In the end, yes -- I'm a public figure, people associate and look up to me, I impact lives -- but at the same time I'm a person who is just as confused and searching as everyone else. The difference is that I've forced myself into the public eye and have to continue to stay true to myself and my readers.
As always, this is just the beginning. I'm going to let my haters be my motivators this time.