I am the 12th of 13 children; I grew up in a Chassidic home with all its trappings of guilt, tradition and fake facades. From the time I was born I felt I was different. When I turned about 16 years old I knew I was different, I just couldn’t talk about it cuz we were taught to shove everything under the rug and being naturally inquisitive and curious – my questions didn’t fit in very well with my parents’ plan or goal of raising clones. Yup, I was definitely different.
My childhood is really grey to me. I try not to remember too much – the emotional abuse, the denial, the manipulation, the guilt, shame and resulting anger was too much for me to bear. I spent years trying to take it all apart and piece it all together, to understand it, to change it, to change them. After seeing that couldn’t work, I learnt to go with the flow knowing that some days of the year (birthdays, anniversaries) would be harder for me. Even harder for me was to hear about family events I wasn’t invited to. I slowly learnt to speak my truth and stick up for myself. I slowly learnt to say “not everyone was there, I wasn’t even asked to join.”
How does that impact me today? Today, I have my choice to see that the world is not what they taught me it was – it’s not mean, cruel, hurtful and not everyone is out to get me. Their actions showed me that Hashem and His world couldn’t be trusted and yet trust Him for all my needs even though He’s vengeful, angry and calculating. This kept me very isolated – it’s amazing how differences build bridges and gaps to keep us separated. The loneliness was unbearable and beyond words.
Today, after years of staying open to my truth, I know that it’s not quite like that. Yes, there are some people who will try to get the better of me yet that’s not the world that I choose to live in. I choose to live in a world where people see beneath the clothing and outer trappings of the other – where we look into the soul of a person and see their light, their power, their Divinity.
Today, I know that I choose to live in a world where I am in touch with the never ending source of love, understanding and acceptance within me and live from there. Today I choose to live in a world of warmth, compassion, consecutiveness and expansiveness. I’m grateful to have the inner peace to embrace that being different is a very good thing.
Today some of my friends still wanna ‘fix’ me – while all I want or need is to continue to live from that support system of acceptance, love and a presence in my life of friends who are there when I need them and me for them. And I ask them: “are you my family”?