Journey to Judaism – CoMpLeTe!
So, I’ve decided to start wrapping up this blog by putting my whole journey towards Judaism in perspective and summing up. Pictured above, I have a tattoo on my inner left angle from the Art of War – Morality, Terrain and Doctrine. Tattoos are not encouraged in Judaism, but I had this done before I converted and it’s a reminder to always proceed in life with morality, knowledge and an understanding of my environment. The tattoo is a reminder, Judaism is the active application of the first character which represents MORALITY.
After I converted someone asked me, “Do you feel any different?” And I was like, “no.” But then I stopped and remembered I had recently flipped through an old notebook filled with frantic thoughts and I realized since I converted I had become calmer, more at peace.
I love Judaism and I am so grateful to have found it. Initially when I had started studying I was paranoid that everyone thought I was doing it for my boyfriend, cause he was Jewish. All the jokes of, “oh he won’t marry you otherwise.”
I can’t discredit that my boyfriend sparked my interest in Judaism, but he never asked me to convert. In fact, if I were to credit any source for helping me find Judaism, I would credit AA (yes, as in Alcoholics Anonymous). Shortly after I had turned 31, I started going through something, which I can only now in hindsight describe as an existential crisis. I don’t mean the vague version of an existential crisis. I was having symptoms of depersonalization and derealization. I remember going through these headaches and suddenly feeling detached from my body, everyone around me looked surreal, it’s like someone had pulled back a curtain and everything in life appeared staged. Nothing looked or felt real. I googled my symptoms, which included a deep depression, and I found a word: anomie – social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values; also : personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals.
My life was a mess, but it wasn’t initially a result of a lack of effort. I tried – in love, in career, and it seemed I had failed…in everything. I was unhappy, living in a scuzzy part of downtown, struggling with everything – financially, I was in an abusive relationship, I was working a job not of my choice (copywriter) and I hated life. Most days I was ok with the idea of death and even found comfort in the thought that one day it would all end. I only ever felt suicidal once. I called someone that day and it passed, but when I found out my former writing partner had killed himself last year, I was shocked because if one of us was close to death I was convinced it was me. Apparently, we had been going through some kind of parallel existential crisis. Anyhow, in the mess that my life had become I took to drinking, quite heavily. I guess to some extent I was self medicating but I became emotionally dependent on alcohol. I drank to the point where I would black out and have no recollection. That said, I was functional. I would go to work every morning and pull it off. It was this strange period of insanity. But when you’re in insanity, it’s not like you’re objective, you’re in this vortex of darkness. Eventually after my abusive relationship ended, I decided to stop drinking and start going to AA. It was there in the 12 steps — I rediscovered the notion of faith; in AA they refer to the “higher power.” I took AA seriously and memorized the main prayers – Serenity and my favorite, below:
God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Then after I met my current boyfriend — I have no idea why he stayed with me. I told him I was going to AA and in addition to that, I lost my job due to an acquisition one day before our first date. What a catch I was.
But the relationship worked. We were both screenwriters, artists, crazy people and we connected. I knew he was Jewish and had some idea that Judaism meant something to him, but my decision to study Judaism came as much out of a need to connect to a higher power and reclaim my spiritual base as it did to impress or seek the approval of my boyfriend. I was on a road of self-repair and I now believe that Judaism was a continuation of the recovery I had started in AA.
I never knew if I would actually convert, but when the time came, it felt natural and obvious. Like it’s what was always meant to happen.
Did Judaism save me? Not entirely. I think AA did. But Judaism has helped me to resculpt myself as a person and strive to be better and more complete. Previously, I had no coping skills. Life went bad and I fell with it. Judaism empowers me. I know that without a spiritual base a person can so easily spiral into an existential crisis. A couple of years ago I had no faith, no sense of community and a loose moral base. I feel so much more complete now…and after a brief period of therapy, I was diagnosed as a problem drinker, not an alcoholic. So I do occasionally drink now. My life is balanced for the first time ever. From my strict immigrant peasant Polack upbringing to a workaholic, then an alcoholic and now…I’m more me than ever. I’m not emotionally dependent on external things – not alcohol, not success, not a person for my happiness. I have God!