Family, can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
When I think about family, I immediately think of my own extended family, a brood of highly dysfunctional people with more secrets than a D.C. brothel. I think of the greed that emerged after my grandma died, tearing a huge rift in what I always thought was a tight-knit family. I think of the times I was told I was going to hell because I echoed my mom’s liberal views or skipped church. I remember how I finally made the decision to cut out the most toxic family members, effectively ceasing communication with all but one. I remember the day I blocked all my family members from seeing my Facebook profile because I thought they didn’t deserve to know about my life.
As much as I dislike even being in the presence of family, I have had to suck it up when we find ourselves at a hospital or funeral. I feel like I have to put on invisible armor just to survive being in their presence. My mom doesn’t talk to them much either, save for my oldest living aunt who has advanced dementia. We are effectively the black sheep of the family.
The holidays are hard. My mom and I stopped putting up a Christmas tree after the time it fell down and I had a mild breakdown. On Thanksgiving, I try extra hard to pretend like it’s a normal day. I avoid the parades, try to stay away from social media, and try my best to ignore the cheerful holiday chatter that surrounds me. Basically, from the High Holy Days to January, I’m just a few breaths away from completely melting down from the weight of the sadness I feel.
Judaism is very much built around family. I once told Rabbi Stern that it was just like me to pick the one religion where having a family is an unofficial requirement. And yet, the familial part of Judaism is a large part of the reason I decided to convert. But what happens when the conversion is done and I still feel alone?