There's a climactic moment that happens for different people at different times, when you realize that it's not everyone else who has changed, but rather it's you. I've had friends tell me, it happened when they returned home from their year in Israel refusing to eat strawberries, and friends who recognized the change around their bar/bat mitzvahs when they no longer wanted to drive to shul- but for me, it happened only a week ago.
-"You're coming home."
-"No, I'm not."
-"Elle, there is nothing to negotiate."
-"Why can't you be a bit more open-minded."
-"What will this do for your reputation; how far off the derech have you gone?"
Plans took an unexpected turn, when my host mom packed her bag and left for three weeks bound for her el-al flight. Now as much as I have come to love her and as happy as I am that she will get to visit with family- nonetheless, I cant help feeling like an uncapped, stomped-out air-mattress whose only prospect is accumulating dust in the crawlspace until cousin Jonathon sleeps over and pees right through the bed-bath & beyond sheets.
Let me break it down:
3 week of Haifa hiatus = 1 roof
--------------- > my mom could handle
2 men + 1 unrelated girl
I had everything. A great job, easy transportation, a warm family, the most delicious Israeli food, and even access to the clubhouse pool. It didnt slip through my fingers-rather my fingers were cut-off. Because of shalom bayit, I became an amputee.
This past shabbat, a friend pointed over to a family walking across the street. "Hey look- Jews!" he said. "You can tell they're frum because they're not going to our shul." For some reason, I am still irked by the dismal acuteness of this passive comment. A statement made in jest has only just begun to excite the synapses of my mind.
One of the reasons I had hung up on my mom was because I felt that no one could finely assess the struggles I go through on a constant basis to relate to G-d but my own self. I felt closed- locked into an expectation of religion and unjustly discriminated that I was no longer "frum" solely because I felt comfortable with own decision to keep my job and my living arrangements. I am tired of reading suspicion across friends' faces when I say I lived 5 weeks with a friend who's a boy. I am tired of opening the door for rabbis who wont look me in the eye but ask for "chai." Why can't you see past the denim divider between my legs, and I'll overlook your wanton rampant sex life and 16 children?
To me, Judaism is like an engagement ring. I don't need you to marvel at its size or scoff at its dullness. Rather, I'm showing you, to share in my happiness and acknowledge that in my own right- I am finally complete.