My Jewish divorce, my Get, my spiritual separation was complete last Wednesday. I’ve been wanting to write about it since that afternoon, when I smiled and cried and walked in silence in the cold sunshine along Lake Michigan. And yet, I couldn’t seem to find the words.
I could talk about it. But I couldn’t write it. Perhaps it was so precious, so tender, I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice. That I wouldn’t “write it right.” That it, or I, might be misunderstood.
How do you explain what it is to know that your status is changed? That you are changed. That the state of Washington gave you a piece of paper dissolving your marital union. But that your Rabbi, your Cantor and your friend, Mary Jo – your Beit Din – gave you peace. And that you don’t know whether to scream it from the rooftops or to hold it closely, protectively to yourself?
How do you say what it is to be witnessed at your most vulnerable, ripped up, rawest state? To read the letter you wrote to your husband the night before, telling him how you are different and better for knowing him?
How do you explain what it is to utter these words: “Thus, do I release you from any religious marital obligation to me, in order that you may be completely free to follow your own path. As our marriage was consecrated according to a sacred covenant, so this shall be for you from me a bill of divorcement, a letter of release, and a document of freedom in accordance with the customs of the people Israel.”
To do this through heaving, snotty sobs. To reach into your bag to retrieve a blue and white checked hanky – a remnant from another failed relationship. To smile and know that he is with you.
How do you say what it is to tear a piece of fabric as Jews do when one has died? That piece of fabric being a piece of your wedding canopy, embroidered by a friend with the words “honey grace.” Except that the “grace” is gone because you gave it to your friend April in South Carolina. But that you held onto the “honey” – this man who literally picked you up off of your feet when you met him and made you believe in romance, kissing and holding hands. Who reminded you that maybe, just maybe, you are a desirable creature in the world and that one day you will find love again. One day. To have your Rabbi insist that he is Elijah the Prophet in drag. And to know no matter who he is that he is with you in this moment. Right here in this room. At this Get. As is April. As is Rainey, the artist who stitched the words “honey grace.”
How do you explain what it is to cut a tear into the green, embroidered fabric and then rip with intention – being directed to think of what you are separating from? And to then be instructed to walk away, and to think about what you are walking to. And to hear the words, and know that the answer is simply and only, “Greater Love.”
How do you tell what it is to have your friend greet you outside of the synagogue and place a red thread wrapped in silver around your wrist? For her to remind you that in Kabbalah a red thread signifies protection. And that by placing it on your left wrist, the pathway from the main artery to the heart, that you might remember that you are protected. And of what you are moving toward. That it resides in you already, in your heart. That “Greater Love.” And to notice that she is wearing a twin version of the bracelet on her left wrist.
How do you give words to what it is to walk into the ritual bath and take photographs of yourself in the mirror before and after your prayers and immersion, wondering if you look different? Because you feel different. To wonder if you should paste the blue bindi back on your forehead – for truly, now you are no longer married. And to decide that you aren’t quite ready to let this shiny, sparkly piece of face jewelry go yet. To know that it has come to be your calling card as much as your shaved head.
How do explain what it is to have your Cantor tell you he stands in awe of how present you are for your life? Your terribly romantic, emotional, overly sensitive life. And to know you wouldn’t have it any other way.
I guess I just did.