2 Kislev 5765
Breaking the Pattern
Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my question.
I have gained a lot from your insightful answers in the Dear Chana column -thank you!
I will start with some background information before I present my questions. I just returned from seminary and Baruch Hashem I had an incredible, life-changing year. Im Yirtzeh Hashem I am returning to Eretz Yisrael in a few weeks for a second year.
I come from a complicated family background. My high school principal would call my family “Leibedik”, but to me it often just seems confusing and frustrating. My parents, who are both Baalei Teshuvah, are in the midst of a messy divorce that has really messed up the whole family.
My special needs siblings are even more confused than the rest of us kids as to how to deal with being put in the middle of a seemingly unending war between two people who used to love each other and now go out of their way to make each others lives miserable. (We have all been through years of many types of therapies that have not been successful and have therefore been stopped.)
The current relationships that my parents are involved in complicate the matter more, as my parents do not have a settlement or legal divorce, though thankfully my mother now has a Get. Rabbonim do not know how to handle the situation although they have tried. My father is, in his words, “not interested in being as frum as he used to be.” Not surprisingly, my teenage brother spends most of his time on the street and is not interested in frumkeit at all. I wish he had someone to give him direction and show him the way.
From a young age, I realized that there was a lot missing in my family. As the eldest, I had a lot of responsibility and grew up playing more of a parental role than a sister one. I understood that the fighting and disharmony was not normal. The fancy vacations and presents did not make up for a father who was often not around and usually not emotionally
available. I wondered why our Shabbos table was different than some of my friends’ Shabbos tables, where the special feeling of Kedusha permeated the air. I vowed that IY”H one day when I had my own family, things would be very different. I read a lot of books about other children who had hard life situations and I gained inspiration from reading Jewish books about what marriage and a Jewish home was all about.
Throughout high school I grew a lot in my Yiddishkeit. I sought out mentors and Rebbeim from school and the community who guided me and helped me get through everything. It was because of a tremendous amount of Hashgacha Pratis and some hard work that I was able to remain on the derech and relatively emotionally stable. I hoped that my year in Eretz Yisrael would open new doors for me and help me find my specific path in life.
This past year in seminary was amazing! I became part of a family that really cared and went way beyond the call of duty for us students. I became close with teachers and mentors who were and continue to be living examples of what it means to be Torah-true Jews. I found that environment that I had longed for as a child, and people that wanted to show me how to set the foundation to building a similar life. Hashem gave me a new chance at life, and I realize that very few people my age are given that. I have been blessed with so much.
My seminary set me up with a therapist who has helped me immensely in dealing with issues from my past and rebuilding some of my broken relationships with family members. When I return to Israel, my therapist and I hope to move on to issues regarding my future-what type of home I want to build and how to go about doing that, starting with the dating process and so forth. I pretty much know what I want in a husband and have worked on my Emunah in the sense that I trust Hashem to bring me my zivug in the right time, in spite of the fact that my family situation is so complicated and that people are aware of my family dynamics. I know that I am a much stronger person because of what I have gone through.
My questions are as follows. Although I have seen tremendous people and know what it is that I want for my future, they never gave us a class in seminary called “How to Become One of the Incredible People You See Standing In Front of You Today”. I know that none of our educators started out the way they are now. In seminary they provided us with ideals and taught us Jewish Outlook, but left the job of using those tools up to us.
Can you offer some suggestions as to how I can break away from a past that is both consciously and subconsciously so much a part of me and move towards creating a spiritual environment similar to what I witnessed in Eretz Yisrael? (I know that in seminary they taught us many ways to create a good Jewish home, but I am looking for some of the secret insider tips that make a Torah home into a Torah home that is so powerful that it can inspire others to strive for more and persevere and want to learn to enjoy all that Yiddishkeit has to offer.)
I also am looking for any books, tapes etc. about how to move in a forward direction when coming from a broken home. I find that there are many books about what a Jewish marriage and home should be like, but not so many on creating that home specifically when coming from a broken home environment. Many books, like Rav Orlowek’s “Raising Roses Among the Thorns” and Rav Keleman’s “To Kindle a Soul” are incredible guides but seem to be more preventative measures than corrective measures.
Thank you so much for all of your inspiration and guidance.
Dear JemSem Reader,
Thank you for the open and frank description of your background. It sounds like you have been through alot in your short years. The home that you grew up in sounds like it was traumatic, difficult and strained. I strongly commend you for your taking ‘the bull by the horns’ approach and working to help yourself. There are many who would take the easy way out asking what could we expect from them – having grown up like this? They would walk around with chips on their shoulders angry at the world, making little effort to get themselves to a better place. It seems that you have done much to help yourself. Forming relationships with role models whom you can learn from, going to seminary, seeing a therapist, and going back for a second year!
You are totally on the right track! During a girls’ seminary year [s] if she can get a direction and hashkafa, understand what the important life goals are and get herself personally and privately worked out, well, I would consider that a success. You are in the middle of all that!
You are concerned about your future home and your ability to create a functional, warm, positive, and growing environment in light of your own personal background. One of the biggest things that a person can do with herself is to become aware of the life script that she is following. A life script is made up of the messages we received from significant others about ourselves as we were growing up. It is formed through the life that we lived and it effects how we see the world and how we feel about ourselves. It becomes our internal message tape as we grow. Many people actually hinder themselves because they clearly believe that they must live out their life script as it is. They ‘script’ themselves as a failure, they say to themselves that they came from such and such and therefore their future will be more of the same. Subconsciously they continue on the merry go round of
But, the good news is that YOU can break the pattern! You can write a new script, get out of the rut and change the dance! It is an empowering thought to realize that you can change your life script. The way to do this is to figure out your script and realize what taped messages are playing in your mind. Then you have to learn how to ‘reframe’ them. Reframing is the idea of taking something from the past and learning how to change it and see it in a positive light. Painful events can be transformed in your mind as experiences of specific growth or life lessons [many times in terms of what not to do or how not to behave.] A person can also train themselves to reframe the daily events of our lives that are irritating and upsetting. This is very easy to say in a few sentences, but it takes a tremendous amount of work and effort. But it is entirely possible. If you can learn from your past and analize your tendencies in certain areas and take charge to change them now – you will be well on your way to a worthwhile future. Take full advantage of your therapy time to help you with this. It is time well spent in investment of your future. By doing all that you are doing you are in fact being quite pro-active and taking responsibility for your life. A person must also focus on cultivating a positive attitude about life in general.
‘Adam Nifal K’fee Pi’ulosov’. You Will be influenced according to the new actions and modes of behavior that you will impliment into your life. You will be able to stop those old negative ‘dances’ and begin other ones with very new steps. This takes Emuna, courage, and maturity -but it is doable and worth the effort, as you already realize.
Keep focused on your seminary classes. Teachers not only impart to you the knowledge of the Torah, but sprinkled in between the lines are glimpses into their lives, the lessons they’ve learned about life and pointers for navigating in this world. Take note of it all. When you’re aware of this, you’ll be suprised at what you can pick up. Find healthy families to go to, to learn from, to be around. There’s bunches of lessons lurking there.
Armed with all of this, you’ll be able to go into your future with confidence that you can create a positive and meaningful home for you, your husband, and the neshamos that Hashem will entrust to you. And even then, sometimes you’ll make mistakes just like the rest of us. So when you stumble you’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. My mother used to say that that was the reason that there were erasers on the end of pencils.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? But the main thing to remember is that you can be in control of your life script and you have the power to change it.
With Warmest Wishes,