Back in the day blogging was navel gazing.
It was as simple (and complicated) as individuals sharing stories in hopes what we wrote would resonate with others.
In a sense we unknowingly blogged in an attempt to spark You too? I thought I was the only one!, to create connection through our struggles and unite through our celebrations.
I’ve consciously chosen to reclaim the navel-gazing space.
A permanent 180 (or 360 since I’ve returned to where I started?!) which lands me firmly back in comfy, non-sponsored, overshare-land.
The now-12 year old recently decided to become Jewish.
(If by “decided to become Jewish” you mean she’s always been yet our synagogue deemed it a requirement if she wanted to have a bat mitzvah—which I do.)
This (finger quote) decision (unFQ) culminated in her experiencing the ritual bath known as a mikveh.
Mikvehs take different forms (from appearing bathtub-like to open bodies of water) with one being that of a natural spring.
Enter (metaphorically) Austin’s Barton Springs.
Enter (literally) our motley crew of varying levels of religiosity Jews on a hothot weekday morning to celebrate the (soon to be official) Jewtemalan.
By way of full disclosure everything I knew heading into our mikveh experience I learned from the Google.
“Immersion in a mikveh serves as transition between convert’s old identity and her new one as a Jew.”
Essentially, immersion indicates abandonment of one form of existence to embrace one infinitely higher.
(this meant not much to the 12-year-old. this notion was quite intriguing to the then-48-year-old)
Before the immersion could begin the three of us sat down with our Rabbi for discussion and to answer questions.
The rabbi asked the Child why she wanted to become Jewish.
She challenged the Child around the idea how, especially in today’s climate, choosing to voluntarily become “the other” is not an easy path.
We adults answered general questions about supporting her decision and providing/creating a Jewish home.
And I cried.
I supported the Child in converting, but had no way pushed or encouraged the ceremony (complicated spoiler alert: I may have actively discouraged).
Each time our daughter spoke her clarity and confidence around the decision she’d made moved me deeply.
I glimpsed a maturity I’d not seen before and a self-awareness I don’t know I possessed at her age.
And then the rabbi noticed my swimsuit under my clothing.
A bikini worn at the request of the Child as she insisted we’d celebrate her conversion with a post-ceremony group swim.
“Are you participating?” The rabbi asked.
“Yes she is!” The Child blurted out before I could respond.
And the ‘already Jew participating in converting to becoming a Jew’ experience was born.
And it was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire fucking life.
We fully submerged in water 3 times and repeated the prayers our rabbi said.
The 12-year-old committed to being a Jew and the then-48-year-old made a different commitment of sorts to herself.
As we submerged and were fleetingly unable to breathe it offered me opportunity to make a break from my former self-definition.
Each time we shattered the water’s surface it created for me a commitment to a new way of life and re-defining myself.
The very fact we humans cannot survive submerged for longer than a few moments was indicative of death for me.
Death of beliefs it’s time for me to shed.
And each time I resurfaced/was able to breathe I was reborn.
The rabbi reminded us:
A fetus is surrounded by water, but does not yet “live.” The water breaks in a split-second and a child emerges into a new world just as the convert immerses, emerges and is reborn again as a Jew.
In those moments it mattered not the Child had always viewed herself as Jewish.
The ceremony was renewal and re-definition for us both and we had the stunning opportunity to undertake it together.
As evidenced by this long post (which has, in fact, been edited) words cannot do justice to the transformative power of the experience.
The surprise inclusion of me and the profound sense of rebirth for the 12-year-old which none of us saw coming.
And the fact we had family and friends-who-are-family around to bear witness to the entire thing.
One of the saddest facets of separation for me has been the loss of a daily-someone to bear witness to my life.
It’s something I was not aware held value until it was gone.
That morning was a reminder of the importance of that feeling and offered hope I could re-create/re-find it again.
Mom, Papa, newJew, Bubbie, cousin. <3
Allie saysJuly 27, 2018 at 5:05 am
I saw some of the pictures on FB but SO glad you have shared the whole story with us. I think it’s incredible you were able to do this with your daughter and actively participate, allowing all those insights to emerge!!! And I was completely taken back by one of your last insights about having someone “bear witness” to your everyday. That had never occurred to me either – the importance of it – and I will now be grateful I have that. I am certain you will find it again too.
John McElhenney saysJuly 27, 2018 at 8:16 am
Fuken fantastic post. Welcome back to storytelling!
Shauna saysJuly 27, 2018 at 9:16 am
Tears ahoy. Just beautiful. What an incredible experience, so glad you’ve shared it with us 🙂
Jill saysJuly 27, 2018 at 9:30 am
Beautiful post Carla! So many thoughts about it…
1) Thank you for this —-> “I’ve consciously chosen to reclaim the navel-gazing space.” Me too Sister. I’ve been on the fence about whether or not old timey blogging is something I still want to do (is it relevant? Does anyone care? Is it worth my time?) but I’ve just this week decided that YES it is all of those parenthetical things and it’s just something I enjoy, so I too shall commence with the navel gazing in my corner of the blogosphere (it may be an old neighborhood, but it’s still alive).
2) She is blossoming into a really beautiful young woman. She is the same age as my youngest, so I feel like they have grown up together. 🙂 I love seeing the adult-her starting to peek out! <3
3) Bearing witness to someone's life – I had not thought about this either. Good reminder and something to keep in mind next time my beloved husband is pissing me off to no end.
4) I LOVE that her ceremony held special meaning for you in your own way. <3
Great post – thank you for being you. 🙂
Kelley Rose saysJuly 27, 2018 at 11:11 am
This. So thankful you got to experience alongside her.
messymimi saysJuly 27, 2018 at 7:14 pm
My prayer is that you will find it, i’m too emotional to write anything else now.
Wendy saysJuly 27, 2018 at 8:27 pm
You done good, mama!
Karen Austin saysJuly 30, 2018 at 7:50 am
Thank you for sharing this beautiful, tender story about you and your daughter. I’m happy to be a witness (of sorts) to this event. Gentle hugs and enthusiastic high fives to you. Keep going, keep growing!
Renee saysJuly 30, 2018 at 9:56 am
You have someone deep inside you to bear daily witness to your life….YOU! And you will quickly learn that is all you really need! And be grateful for this time to figure that out! Also, you have more than that…your daughter!
Anna saysAugust 3, 2018 at 2:38 am
Nice place to spend quality time with family.