I have this habit that eats up a lot of my time if I allow–I like to imagine what it would be like to be other people.I love books and songs and lyrics and movies and stories which make me feel like I am stepping into a small piece of someone else’s world, even for just a moment. I like to do this in my daily life too.
Today when I was at the coffee shop I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would be like behind that counter. The thrill of the challenge urged me to go ask for an application. Of course my conscience reminded me that I have responsibilities other than to chase my every whim. As a compromise with myself, I indulged for a few minutes in a daydream.
I imagined my first day behind the counter, all nervous and jittery-they way I always get in new situations. My hands are fumbling as I pull paper cups apart and try to fill them to the brim with piping hot coffee. I try hard to remember all the orders given to me and wonder why they don’t write them all down. There is no way I can possibly remember them all now. Customers are beginning to line up and a very noisy women comes to the door and wonders aloud what kinda idiot can’t pour a cop of coffee. I blush to myself in shame, and then in anger. I hand her a cup of coffee, my voice trembling as I try to find just the right thing to say. I start to open my mouth to tell her just what I think of her opinion of me, when I remember that I am sitting at my table all alone on the far end of the shop, sipping my tea.
I have spent many hours of my life–especially, but not limited to, my childhood–cutting out my mental self-image and pasting it over the faces of others. I’ve been a doctor, a cop, a cook, a slave, a poet, a prophet, a singer and even death itself. There is always a clear message for me in there. And a part of myself that I always protect feels harshly exposed by every single step I take forward.
There was a time I sat across from a frum couple and I wondered what it would be like to be them. I imagined it all in my mind, as I habitually do when I have the time to sit and think. The religiosity, the spirituality, the family life, the clothing, the phrases and words, and the beauitful aura that surrounded them as they sat having the most mundane conversation–I cut myself out of my lonely world and I pasted my face over that of hers and pretended, just for a small moment, that it was me sitting there. My heart beat quickened when I realize that it was a nearly perfect fit. Different, but familiar; I felt free in a way I never had before. I cried from a place inside that I wasn’t previously aware was in me and I gave myself the permission to hold on to that image… and like a map, it lead me to a life of Orthodoxy.
And like a map, it is only a flattened picture of a real life existence. I am not her–that women I thought I could be. She was only a vision of hope for me, that served to stir and inner desire to come to this world. I cannot be, no matter how I imagine so, anyone but a participant in the creation of an actual me. My imagination doesn’t fully dictate that as I am made up of more that just dreams and wishes, but of a Creator’s earth and breath too.
Dreaming clearly serves it’s purpose. So now I will dream this: the freedom to never have to explain to any living being why I want to be Orthodox, and the allowance for as much time as it takes me to relax into my new life. The freedom to be at peace with not always feeling at peace, and to be okay with hating myself a little every now and again, if I really need to. The freedom to feel divided or whole whenever I wish. The freedom to bring with me to this place the person who I truly am, and not the recipe for the women that I imagined I would be here. The freedom to hope for the future and acknowledge the past. The freedom to love Judaism in a way that is all my own. Selfishly, at times. The freedom be angry at it every now and again, without having my sincerity questioned. The freedom to fall back and jump forward as needed. The freedom to not be perfect and still be believed in. And the freedom to be who I am in the moment in which I find myself, without feeling any less or more authentic.
It’s a big dream, but I think it can be made real.