I have tried very hard in my life to be a good person. A good daughter, a good sister, a good wife, a good mother.
My family celebrate simchos often. When you have several children in a family reaching across two decades of age gaps, the simchos come fast and varied. A bar mitzvah here, a chasunah there, a bris, repeat the cycle. Since going “off the derech” the invitations for me have been cut off. I was not invited to my youngest sister’s wedding. I’ve missed already the bar mitzvah of two of my brothers, and can count on missing my youngest brother in a few short weeks.
My mother invited me to her house a week ago. Coffee, I was told. When I got there, the cups were set around her coffee table like usual except I counted way too many in a row. Who else is coming, I asked my mother.
Change the subject.
My sister, the one whose judgement I can never escape from, brought an entourage. Walking into the living room of my parents house as the evening sun cast brilliant reflections on my great-grandmothers cups and saucers. I reached for my great-grandmother’s long gone hand to seek some support. The hand of my daughter, named after her great-great-grandmother, was there instead and I clung to it as my faults were read like a rap sheet.
C, we have some concerns.
You can’t live in two worlds.
You can’t embarrass the family and expect to be welcome.
You’ve led your brother off the derech.
Think of the impact if chas vesholom all the children went off.
Don’t you care about your family?
What kind of a lesson are you teaching your daughter with this behavior?
I’m not off the derech. I don’t do drugs, I don’t sleep around. I have a steady job, I’m respected at work and by my friends. I don’t run around spouting hatred of the frum velt because I genuinely don’t have hatred. I care deeply about my family, more than most of them will ever know. I’ve helped more than one sibling out of a tough spot and took the blame for myself. Even as a teenager, when I was more rebellious and more of a threat, I still stood up for my siblings when I didn’t need to.
I’ve chosen a life that doesn’t involve shaving my head and wearing a shpitzel anymore. It doesn’t make me any less respectful when I show up at my parents’ house in a shaitel or a tichel. I fought for and lost my children because of religion, and I still don’t have hatred.
I got very close to breaking completely last night. If it weren’t for two women who I consider sisters, I would be in the hospital or worse. The guilt and lies that have been piled on me are taking their toll, and I feel like there are very few straws between me and a broken back.
Do you know why women who lose their children, who lose support from their families, decide to end it?
The “at risk” crisis now is motherless children for a generation. I beg the frum velt to understand the consequences of generations of broken children when their own mothers were broken to the point of absolutely crippling pain.
I felt that pain acutely last night, as my body allowed itself to have some release. It was awful. I wanted that my life should end. For a fleeting moment, I just wanted release from the pain I have had for over a decade.
And then it got better. It’s not good, I’m still broken. The fleeting moment was replaced by the hard reality of a fight I will likely have for the rest of my life. My youngest brother’s bar mitzvah is a test, a prelude. I have a son who will be bar mitzvah shortly. The pain is practicing for the simcha, the one I’m certain won’t include a mother who doesn’t shave her head and wear a shpitzel.
Some comfort that my body is already preparing for it. It might be possible to survive.