On Feeling Broken

There’s a Japanese art form called kintsugi, where broken pieces of pottery are put back together with gold lacquer. The point isn’t to conceal the cracks, it’s to show the flaws and imperfections, to remind us that broken pieces can be put back together and actually be stronger. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I went to the doctor this morning. I’ve been exhausted no matter how much sleep I get and my asthma has been flaring up. The doctor asked if I had been experiencing stress. I gave him a short summary of what has happened the past two months, adding that it’s always been my mom and me and now I feel lost. He shared that he went through something similar with his father and that even though it’s hard now, I would find my way and discover new things about myself and become stronger. He pretty much echoed what my psychiatrist told me yesterday and what many people have said to me. I appreciate everyone’s concern and reassurance, even if I don’t feel like I’ll ever get through this.

I spent a lot of time this past weekend at the mall, looking for the perfect white dress. Traditionally, Jews wear white on Yom Kippur as a sort of rehearsal for our own death and also don tallitot. I’ve never worn white or my tallit to Kol Nidre, yet I got it into my head this year that I had to do this. I’m not sure why I fixated on this. Perhaps it’s me leaning more than ever on my faith.

I miss my mom. I miss seeing her every day and talking. I miss watching her fuss over the dogs and sneaking them scraps from the table. I miss our inside jokes. I miss sitting next to her while we both read. I miss the version of my mom that I grew up with and leaned on for support.

I visited her on Sunday. She’s adjusting to her new home and we talked for awhile. She kept saying that she was worried about me, but she knew that Temple was helping and that gave her some solace. That got me thinking about how my relationship with the community has evolved, from uncertainty to anger to reconciliation to finding comfort. There was a time when I would stream High Holy Day services from my office because while I wanted to observe the holidays with everyone, I was not ready to be physically surrounded by a community that I longed to be a part of while feeling like an outsider. But it was never a question of where I would be this year; I was and will be in the sanctuary with everyone else, surrounded by my chosen family.

During the first week of my mom being in the hospital, I got into an argument via text with a family member who had suddenly decided they cared about my mom and me. They said something about how I needed to lean on family during this difficult time, to which I angrily replied that I didn’t trust them and the Jewish community has loved and supported my mom and me more than they ever did. And it’s true. Even though my mom is supportive of my choice to convert, she was and still is uncomfortable with Temple and has only been here a couple of times and met a handful of coworkers and friends. Still, the clergy know my mom through what I’ve told them and have helped me so much through this newest transition. One of the rabbis went to the hospital to visit and sang Mi Shebeirach to her as she fell asleep. Fellow congregants have stopped me and asked how she was doing and if there was anything they could to to help. A coworker came down to the archives to be with me as I cried after hearing my dog’s cancer diagnosis and she took me home. My new emergency contact is someone I work with and trust deeply. I have friends who check on me and just sit with me when I cry. I am so lucky and I am incredibly grateful for that.

I still feel broken. I’m prone to crying at odd moments and I’m completely overwhelmed with how much has changed in such a short timeframe and how much I have yet to do. But the important thing is that, despite everything, I am still trying to put myself back together with help from my loved ones and community.

G’mar chatima tovah, may you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

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