Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gam Zu L'Tovah: I No Longer Am Consistent

I thought about making a podcast. I thought about writing a cryptic slam poem. I thought about just saying that this blog has taken too much out of me and I've passed up on many a chance to focus on me, to be and live for me. But this blog has been my baby, my internal dialogue, my therapy. You guys are the flies on the wall of my mental canvas. You get to see the inner workings of a stranger. The world gets to see the inner workings of a stranger. So what would be stranger than me simply disappearing from the blog, citing stress, questioning everything I know about myself, family drama that cannot even be described, and new people in my life?

The weirdest thing about being divorced is feeling like I was never married. Is that normal? Is it normal to look back and think, where did the past three years go? Who was I? Was that even me? Don't misunderstand: I got married because everything seemed to fall into place. I sought the physical and emotional comforts that marriage and relationships provide. But looking back and reflecting on it all, I did myself a great disservice denying my own feelings about the whole thing. To put it more simply: I have no clue who that woman was over the past three years.

There are clear moments: Graduate school, my Orthodox conversion, Israel. But all of the things that should matter, that should stick with me are as if a fog. Like watching a tragic movie with a tragic woman who wants nothing more than to be that image of the Orthodox woman living the Orthodox life with her Orthodox husband in an Orthodox world. And I got that. I dressed the part, I spoke the part, I ate the part, I lived the part. I was that person that people strive to be, and for those who read this blog and look for guidance on conversion to Orthodoxy, I was that example to follow.

And all of the important stuff was honest. It's the superficial stuff that I'm starting to wonder whether it was real. I believe everything -- I believe and have a firm conviction in all that Orthodox Judaism provides and demands, but I've hit this point where, because I'm unraveling who I was for three years, I don't know that I am capable of following through as that person. Not right now.

Man. I sound like I'm being cryptic. Like what I should say, what I want to say is so obvious. But, you see, I've placed myself under the microscope of so many people, at least 55,000 a month. And as you start to question yourself and where you're going, it's like the sun is shining so bright you're on the verge of combustion. In the Jewish community, for me at least, the fear of retribution, exclusion, denial are beyond words. The fear that, if I decide that eating out at a vegetarian restaurant is something in which I want to dabble that I will be rejected wholly by those around me. That if I decide that I'm interested in someone who isn't Jewish that my readers and friends will look at me with judgment and horror.

Oh how the mighty might fall.

In one of the segments of Ask Chaviva Anything! someone asked whether I put too much emphasis on being a convert, and I said that it's impossible, because being a ger is the very fabric of who I am. It defines my social life, my diet, my clothing, my approach to everything in life. A Jew can go "off the derech," and we scoff and laugh and pray that they come back into the fold, no matter how nominally affiliated he or she is. But no matter how not Jewish he or she chooses to date, he or she will always be Jewish. An ancestor's ketubah or picture of a grandparent's grave, and matters are solidified. A convert? Well, I have a folder that holds both my Reform and my Orthodox conversion certificates. Pieces of paper signed by modern rabbis in a modern rabbinical court in an environment installed with processes and circumstance. But those papers can disappear, they can be questioned, they can be enough to cast away someone indefinitely.

I sound dramatic, I know. But this is a glimpse into my head, my life, my world right now. People tell me that HaShem never gives us something that we can not handle, and others say gam zu l'tovah (this, too, is for good). And that makes me wonder why I currently find myself in the circumstances that I do. The more difficult thing, however, is that I feel good. I feel right. I feel happy. For the first time in a long time, I feel like me.

People are fluid. Our experiences are fluid. From one moment to the next, we cannot expect consistency from either ourselves or others. We're impacted by our environments, our emotions, our genetics, resulting in an ever-changing sense of self that should never stand still. Drastic changes, we assume, must be attributed to some life-altering event or emotion. However, in truth, it seems to make sense that we would be constantly in flux, changing, inconsistent. After all, that's why Judaism has so many installed proscriptions of how to live -- consistency. Everyone works better on a schedule. Or do we? I guess what I'm saying is that we expect too much from ourselves, from others, in the way of consistency. We expect people to have patterns, and when the pattern is thrown, we assume the worst.

Don't assume the worst, please.

Also: As an aside, if you didn't see Mitch Albom's "Have a Little Faith" on TV the other night, then you need to find it and you need to watch it. It had me in tears at the end, and I don't cry easily. The only movie I ever cried during was "My Best Friend's Wedding." But in the movie, the rabbi (played by Martin Landau) poses the following (and I'm paraphrasing) Why didn't G-d create one perfect tree? Why did he create multiple trees, spruces, pines, oaks? It's the same with man and our beliefs. There are many ways to G-d, not just one. (And this, folks, is my comfort.)