Hi everybody. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve written a blog. A while. The main reason being that the last blog I wrote I couldn’t publish. It was about the happenings between my husband and me. And while I was somehow born with the desire to share ridiculous amounts of personal information with the world while lacking the most basic shame filter, my husband wasn’t. Therefore, for the past few months I haven’t written because I didn’t have permission to write about what was going on with me at the time. And I am really bad at writing about anything else. In summation, my husband and I are working VERY hard on our relationship and will continue to do so, and now I am back because there is more happening in my life than marriage strife.
Here is what’s trending in the microscopic world of me: I went to the Jewish Intentional Communities Conference. I went with my husband and three kids. And can I just say, I AM NEVER SHARING ONE ROOM WITH MY WHOLE FAMILY FOR 4 DAYS EVER AGAIN! I love them, they’re great, they don’t smell too bad. But I am a terrible sleeper and I laid there every night, all night, fantasizing about throwing my kids off the bed and tossing their blankies and pillows after them. See ya suckas!
There is much to be said about the conference, the brilliant ideas, the incredible people, the connections, the talent, the fun. But this blog is about me and my experiences so I’m going to ignore all that and go into my experience of being at a conference with 200 people. I went from being excited to nervous to confident to insecure to extroverted to introverted and back again. When we were broken into smaller groups and given a topic, I was able to be fully present, confident, opinionated (in a good way I think), and strong. But walking into the dining hall with the tables filling up with the various clicks, and my high school—braces wearing—flat chested—squeaky voiced self, smiled awkwardly and scanned the room for a friendly, accepting face. It’s a painful regression, but one that seems to be on complete autopilot. The best I could manage was to acknowledge it, remind myself that I am ok, and sit.
Through the conference we found that the common theme that united us all was the longing to belong. My friend, Rachel Love Cohen, presented this idea so eloquently in a panel talk and maybe she’ll give me a copy of her speech so I could publish it here, because she said it better than I ever could. But it resonated with us all. We want to be part of Intentional Communities because we want to belong to something outside our nuclear family spheres. We want to contribute and be needed and have a place and an extended family. We want to live in connection with others beyond fair weather friends. And since our world is so disconnected that half (or for some unfortunates among us, most) of our social interactions are virtual, we need community life.
That is where we all felt a commonality. But here it gets more painful for me. You would think that at a conference full of Jewish hippie dreamers I would feel right at home. I didn’t. I felt that I was on the margin, just like I always feel I am on the margin of any community I’ve ever been a part of. Because I’m not looking for diversity, plurality, equality. I’m not a free-spirited hippie who is open to anything. I am an observant Jew. At least for now. (My whole journey with Judaism is ever changing and shifting and I am unsure of exactly where I hold.) And as an observant Jew, an inclusive community is actually quite exclusive. I don’t want a community where my children can only eat in certain homes. I don’t want a community where my desire for basic modesty imposes on your freedom. I don’t want a community where Shabbos is kept in the shul but not in the homes. And so, I feel alone.
And I guess that is what scares me. I always feel alone. In a frum community I feel separate because I don’t know where I hold. Because I question so much and at times need to take space from halacha to discover my heart connection with Torah. Or sometimes I need to say, connection with Torah is not my priority right now. And it’s really hard to do that in a traditionally frum community. On the other hand, it’s hard to say that I want boundaries and rules in a hippie, live off the earth, community.
Will I ever find a community of people with whom I feel I truly BELONG? It is such a painful longing held so deep within me. And of course I could say that as I go deeper within and create a calm and connected center inside, I may not desire it so strongly externally. But I’m just not willing to wait for inner peace before I find MY community of people. I want to go on my journey with them! And be supported as I swerve near and far and be that community for others on their journeys. And we can all listen to Journey together, ironically, but not, and cry out “DON’T STOP BELIEVING… JUST HOLD ON TO THAT FEE-EE-EE-EE-LING.”
And by the way, I sounded awesome in my head as I belted that out in caps.
And now for my GoodList:
1. My husband who was AMAZINGLY supportive throughout the whole conference
2. Connecting with some incredible people (some I knew previously, some I didn’t) and hopefully maintaining those connections
3. Kosher food I didn’t have to cook for 4 days… and therefor no dishes!
4. Eden and Ben. The two awesome kiddos who became my kids’ besties
5. Listening to hippies belt out some old school Otis Redding around a campfire with guitars and banjos
6. Watching my 2 year-old son do alef-bet yoga. Freakin’ amazing
7. Being inspired