Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

I started off writing a post about my Passover experience. Detail by detail. Seder to Seder, meal to meal, joke to joke. But it didn't feel sincere, when all I can think about is how disconnected this year was compared to every observant Passover I've had since 2008.

For the first year since 2008, when I had the world's greatest experience in Chicago thanks to Rabbi Asher Lopatin's help finding me a seder, I was spending Passover mostly by myself. The past three years I enjoyed the tale of our Exodus from Egypt with Evan's family -- the first two years in Florida, poolside, visiting his grandmother, aunt and uncle, and last year in Monsey with cousins. Those were family holidays, how I always envisioned Passover to be. In Florida, four generations gathered around a large seder table eating matzo and cracking jokes.

Even the first year I observed Passover in Chicago, the seder was a family experience. Led by a grandfather at the father's house with grandmother and the orphans of the community around the table.

I'm not saying this year didn't feel like family, but it wasn't the same. The seders were outstanding, filled with intelligent queries and questions of why, why, why. And there were families there, generations represented, but they weren't my family.

An old friend (circa 2006 when I was working at The Washington Post) stopped in last week for the first seder (her first, as far as I know) while working on a story for GOOD magazine. We spent a lot of time talking about my conversion and what I'm really looking for in life, the thing that Judaism was meant to represent for me -- community, family, connections, belonging.

The pursuit of family.

There's something about the seder that asks us all to be a part of a continuum, from generation to generation, and for so many -- even the most secular of Jews -- the seder creates a consistent timeline within a family. For about three years, I was part of a continuum, a story within a family that could serve as a history.

And now? I'm an orphan, a random. And I'm trying so hard to remember that family is more than immediate connections made through marriage or birth. I'm trying to remember that the Jewish community is a family all its own.

But for some reason, I feel so outside of the community. Self-imposed out of fear? Fear of rejection, chastising? Perhaps. I don't know where I've gone wrong or how I ended up here, but despite the inclusion I received at seders and end-of-chag meals, I still feel like that piece of furniture that no one can seem to place. Who bought it? Where do we put it? Should we throw it out? Put it in the attic? It's as if no one knows what to do with me, and worse yet -- I don't know what to do with myself.

Passover, I think, was eye-opening for me. It made me long for something I've lost -- my Jewish family. So the question is: How do I recover what I had, what I lost, and what I need?

(Note: I don't want this to sound like I am diminishing the amazing friends who keep me afloat -- I'm looking at you @melschol -- but there's so much more that I long for. I crave memory, family, history.)